The day the music died
By Daily Bruin Staff
Jan. 31, 1996 9:00 p.m.
The day the music died
Less than a month ago, the San Diego Symphony met its death
could the L.A. Philharmonic be next?
By Elizabeth Bull
Daily Bruin Contributor
Daniel Rothmuller still can’t believe what happened in San Diego
three weeks ago. After 86 years of service, the city’s orchestra,
the San Diego Symphony, filed for bankruptcy.
"It’s a barometer of the community," says Rothmuller, the
associate principal cellist for the L.A. Philharmonic. "When the
government doesn’t give even half the money you need, you have to
go to private funds."
And that’s exactly where San Diego fell short. Without community
support they didn’t have the private funds, and without the private
funds they could not continue.
Many are wondering if Los Angeles could soon be in the same
situation. Limited community support has already led to the loss of
the city’s two professional football teams, the Rams and the
Raiders, and government funds for the Philharmonic have declined
drastically over the last five years.
But not everyone is so concerned.
"I just don’t see what happened in San Diego happening here,"
Rothmuller says. "I’ve been involved in development meetings and
those I have seen at work are dedicated and single-mindedly keeping
us above water.
"Orchestras need management and business people to work with the
community and make the chemistry work financially. At the L.A.
Philharmonic, we have these people."
And "these people" have helped the Philharmonic to maintain the
highest ratio of ticket sales to total revenue of any major
orchestra. The Philharmonic’s development department has, through
extensive fund raising, helped produce an immense budget of $40
Under the guidance of music director Esa-Pekka Salonen, the
Philharmonic has entered the highest echelon of American
orchestras, garnering critical and audience acclaim during recent
appearances in London and New York. With its reputation, the
orchestra is able to attract the top names in classical music as
soloists and guest conductors.
Not to mention that the L.A. Philharmonic sells a large number
of tickets on a regular basis. With concerts at the 17,965 seat
Hollywood Bowl and its regular series at the Dorothy Chandler
Pavilion frequently selling out, the Philharmonic is able to
generate a great amount of revenue from just ticket sales.
"There’s very little chance that what happened in San Diego
could happen here," says Scott Duncan, the classical music writer
for the Orange County Register. "The L.A. Philharmonic has one
important asset – the Hollywood Bowl. It probably provides almost
half of their entire budget. It’s an enormous revenue producer
which gives the Philharmonic stability."
While the summer season at the Hollywood Bowl helps to flesh out
the orchestra’s finances, community support is also essential.
"Perhaps there is more support to have a major international
orchestra in Los Angeles," says Karin Feruda, who works in the L.A.
Philharmonic’s development department. "There are more resources
and aggressive fund-raisers in this city. There’s the entertainment
community as well. People seem to be more in tune to the arts in
The financial director of the Philharmonic, Gene Pasquarelli,
agrees that L.A.’s situation is nowhere near as dire as San
"First of all," he says. "We’re much larger (than the San Diego
Symphony), and we’ve done very well. Our $40 million budget is
exceeded only by Chicago."
But some factors are out of the Philharmonic’s control.
"The arts now are not being backed by federal funding and they
rely on that," says Rothmuller. "Things changed dramatically so now
private donors are looked on to spearhead the cuts."
"Government funds declined by almost 50 percent in five years,"
adds Pasquarelli. "We have to bank on ticket sales but those extra
millions are so important that if they drop off it’s difficult to
"It’s kind of a triangle with ticket sales, public funding and
private donations," says Feruda. "Our public funding comes from
arts council’s grants, the National Endowment for the Arts, City
Cultural Affairs, etc."
The Philharmonic also receives funds from groups like the
250-member affiliate corporation and service projects like the
Pasadena Showcase House of Design.
But the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s success goes beyond the
ability to raise money. There is a general attitude that the music
and what it represents is important to the community.
"If the community has abandoned the arts, that is a very sad and
dangerous thing," Rothmuller says. "It’s not so bad if we don’t
have a football or basketball team, but it is if we lack music,
theater or dance. That is food for thought. That is our
culture."Comments to [email protected]