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The Band Plays On . . .

January 26th, 2009 by Temple City Tribune

New CEO Explains the Status of The Orchestras of Pasadena

With the current unemployment rate at 7.2 percent, almost everyone is feeling a budget pinch and facing the challenge of making ends meet.  Perhaps the hardest hit in this time of economic uncertainty have been non-profit organizations, especially those in the arts field.  But according to Paul Jan Zdunek, new CEO of The Orchestras of Pasadena (TOP) at a press conference on Thursday, January 8, not all of the organization’s issues are due to global financial woes.

Moving forward with optimism, participants at The Orchestras of Pasadena press conference on Thursday, January 8 are (from left) Board Vice President of Mission and Strategy, POPS Music Director Rachael Worby, CEO Paul Jan Zdunek, Board President Diane Rankin, Pasadena Symphony Music Director Jorge Mester and symphony musician Andrew Malloy. - Photo by Candyce Columbus

Moving forward with optimism, participants at The Orchestras of Pasadena press conference on Thursday, January 8 are (from left) Board Vice President of Mission and Strategy, POPS Music Director Rachael Worby, CEO Paul Jan Zdunek, Board President Diane Rankin, Pasadena Symphony Music Director Jorge Mester and symphony musician Andrew Malloy. – Photo by Candyce Columbus

He said that part of the problem is “all of the details were not completely worked out” when The Pasadena Symphony Association and The Pasadena POPS came together to form The Orchestras of Pasadena in October 2007.  Both organizations had “budget deficits” and there had been a “lack of financial responsibility.  You don’t spend more than you make!”
Board President Diane Rankin, who also participated in the press conference, agreed that the board of directors were responsible for that aspect of the crisis, but an ad hoc committee of board members formed by her which has been working diligently with Zdunek to reorganize and streamline TOP.
When asked if any board members had been asked to resign, she said, “No, but a few have resigned for various reasons, including health.”  She also said, “One hundred percent of our current board members have given [financial contributions].”
The press conference was held in the lobby of Pasadena Civic Auditorium, just prior to a Pasadena Symphony rehearsal.  Also participating were board member and Interim Executive Director Jean Horton, Pasadena Symphony Music Director Jorge Mester, Pasadena POPS Music Director Rachael Worby, Pasadena Youth Symphony Orchestra Music Director Jack Taylor and symphony musician Andrew Malloy.
“Triage management” was Zdunek’s first priority when he accepted the CEO position in November.  “Elimination of extraneous expenditure” and “aggressive, grassroots fund-raising” were also priorities.  To that end a marketing development project team was formed of remaining staff members (after layoffs) and since November 1, $430,000 has been raised, $300,000 of which came from two individuals.
After initial shock and dismay due to cancellation of concerts, the musicians rallied.  Mester and the Pasadena Symphony musicians (after receiving one-time only permission from Musicians Union Local 47) waived their fees for the benefit All-Beethoven concert on Saturday, January 10.  Guest artists pianist Howard Shelley, The Pasadena Master Chorale and its music director Jeffrey Bernstein, Shana Blake Hill, Tracy Van Fleet, Scott Ramsay and Dean Elzinga also donated their talents.
Prior to leaving the press conference to prepare for his rehearsal Mester said, “All of us are so happy to have this opportunity to give back to The Orchestras.  By doing this, we want our community see that their own donations can make a difference in the survival of this vital cultural treasure.”
Andrew Malloy, second chair trombone with the symphony, who serves on The Orchestra Committee represented the musicians at the conference.  He explained their extraordinary gesture, “The Pasadena Symphony is very important to the players!”  He said they love working with Mester.
Standing ovations for both halves of Saturday’s concert by the near capacity crowd proved that the Pasadena continues to be supportive of the arts, and specifically its beloved symphony.  The total value of Mester’s, the musicians’ and the guest artists’ contribution was $100,000.
Faced with the need to contain costs and generate revenue to meet an anticipated $2.5 million needed by September 30, Zdunek and his staff have their work cut out for them.  Strategies include ongoing fund-and friend-raising events.
“Where are we going?  We will have a relentless focus on the stewardship philosophy:  excellence, innovation, access, fiscal responsibility and sustainability,” Zdunek said.  And he explained that “access” also includes transparency and more honest communication with the community regarding failures and challenges as well as successes, a departure from past practice.
“We can and will survive!”
Revamped, the two remaining symphony concerts this season are “artistic statements while also cost saving.”  Their themes are on point with The Orchestras’ new direction and intention.
On March 14 in a concert titled “Rebirth,” The Symphony will perform “Spring” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Schumann’s Spring Symphony.
The Symphony’s April 18 concert will be “A New World,” as it performs Milhaud’s  “The Creation of the World,” Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with guest artist Linda Wang, and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World.”
Restructured pricing offers single tickets from $20 to $60, with discounts available for groups of 10 or more.  Call 626-584-6833.  Donations can be made online at www.theorchestras.org or calling 626-793-7172.
The Pasadena POPS have cut three Sunday concerts, but they will perform eight (Friday and Saturday) season concerts at Descanso Gardens next summer.

By Candyce Columbus

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