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CSO extends consultancy with Yo-Yo Ma; cites record gifts and ticket sales, but higher costs

Submitted by on Oct 18, 2012 – 1:27 am

Report: Chicago Symphony upbeat about historic revenues spurred by popular music director Riccardo Muti, but expenses slightly outpaced growth in  2011-12 recessionary climate  

By Nancy Malitz and Lawrence B. Johnson

Yo-Yo Ma’s high profile Citizen Musician initiative with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has been extended another two years through 2015, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) announced Oct. 17 at the organization’s annual meeting at Symphony Center.

In its financial tally for fiscal 2012, the CSOA reported a deficit of $1.3 million on expenses of $73 million. At the same time, contributions rose 11.6 percent to a record $28.2 million. Ticket sales and other orchestra income accounted for about 45 percent of the budget.

The association’s total assets also shrank slightly, due to the market climate in investments and other economic factors. The endowment stands at $233 million, down from $242 million a year ago.

Nevertheless, CSOA president Deborah F. Rutter characterized the 2011-12 season as an “unqualified success,” citing strong progress toward three fundamental goals — global reach, service to Chicago and relationship with patrons, who she said renewed their subscriptions to the current season by a rate of more than 90 percent.

“Three tours, one to California and two overseas, were met with rave reviews” for music director Riccardo Muti and the CSO, Rutter said.  “Our service to Chicago and cities around the world grew exponentially through our Citizen Musician initiative. Being able to announce today that we have extended Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant Yo-Yo Ma’s relationship with us, thus enabling us to further nurture and grow the Citizen Musician initiative, is especially gratifying, and we thank the Greens for making this possible.”

The announcement of Ma’s renewal came hours after the celebrated cellist completed his most recent Chicago visit, with fellow musicians of the Silk Road Ensemble in tow. At Orchestra Hall they had performed a mix of new works inspired by distant cultures. They also coached pre-professional musicians of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before gathering “town hall” style for a discussion about what “citizen musicianship” might mean to them in their art, their careers and their lives.

“These young musicians are at a stage between being full-time students and the time they will go out into the world,” said Ma by telephone Oct. 16 before departing to catch up with the rest of the Silk Roaders. “Not all of them will become professional musicians, but we want them to find communities that will appreciate who they are and what they do.

“The values that we are trying to instill through music are exactly the values that I hear people saying we need to instill in the work force of the 21st century — the capacity for a disciplined imagination, innovation, openness to collaboration, adaptability, flexibility. The landscape of our cultural is changing, constantly changing, and we need to adapt to it.”

Ma pronounced himself thrilled with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Cultural Plan 2012, which aims to reinvigorate arts education in Chicago Public Schools. Ma said the goal was “not art for art’s sake, but art for life’s sake.” In a video address to the board, Ma praised the Citizen Musician initiative, then performed Bach’s Prelude to the First Cello Suite.

Clouding the board’s generally upbeat session, DSO bassist Stephen Lester told the assembly that relations between musicians on the one side and the board and management on the other had “hit a low point” of trust and understanding. He said the musicians sensed continuing anger from board members and management in the wake of their brief September strike.

Asked later to explain the rift, in light of the musicians’ speedy agreement to end their walkout, Lester told Chicago On the Aisle the musicians had settled under duress. “They told us if we didn’t settle, they would cancel a bunch of concerts,” he said. “We felt like we had a gun to our heads.”

CSOA president Deborah Rutter expressed surprise at Lester’s comments. “This is not an angry manager,” she said, referring to herself. “This is not an angry board. This is a great orchestra, and this board has worked unstintingly to support it. I have heard so many positive comments from other musicians who are thrilled to have (music director) Riccardo Muti here and who understand the value of our association with Yo-Yo Ma.”

Ma’s creative consultancy is sponsored by Judson and Joyce Green, who have long been active in arts philanthropy. He is the former president and chief executive officer of NAVTEQ, now a subsidiary of Nokia, and before that held various posts including CFO with Walt Disney Company and board member with Dreamworks Animation. Joyce Green has been a member of the CSOA board since 2006 and currently serves on the executive committee. Both have been actively involved in community outreach.

The board also installed a new chairman to succeed William A. Osborn, who has led the CSOA for the last six years. His successor is Jay Henderson, vice chairman, client service of PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP. Henderson will serve a three-year term. He was executive vice chair and treasurer of the CSOA board, on which he has served since 2003.

The board saluted Osborn’s service with an extended video of accolades by board members, Rutter and Muti.

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Photo captions and credits: Home page and top: Cellist Yo-Yo Ma discusses fine points with members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Descending: Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association president Deborah Rutter.  Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti. Yo-Yo Ma lent his support to the unveiling of the Chicago Cultural Plan on Oct. 15 as CSO president Deborah Rutter and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel looked on. Incoming CSOA chairman Jay Henderson, left, succeeds William A. Osborn, who has served six years.  Below: CSO musicians warm up on stage at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City during the recent tour. (CSO photos by Todd Rosenberg)


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