Detroit Symphony may face "steep" hills once strike is resolved

Apr 5, 2011

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians strike may be nearing its end, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to get things back on track at Orchestra Hall.

For starters, the organization has to figure out how to overcome some ‘image’ problems that come with a six-month strike.

Elizabeth Weigandt is a DSO spokeswoman. She says it hasn’t been pretty to watch the strike unfold, and some patrons may not be happy with how things were handled over the last six months, but "we're hoping that as we get back to making music for them, doing what they love, they will be able to let go of what’s happened, just as we will, and move on to an even better future."

Then there's the music. Nearly all of the current season has been lost to the strike, and the summer season was threatened as well. But Weigandt says the summer season is back on and she doesn’t think the 2011-12 season will be delayed:

"Obviously we have to move quickly to get the word out about what next season will be, but we do have a lot of interest. We will probably make the announcement as soon as we can. I would say within the next couple weeks."

Neither side has released details about the proposed contract.

The musicians are expected to vote on Friday, though they will be back at Orchestra Hall for rehearsal on Thursday.

As for the orchestra's finances, Weigandt says the DSO has "a steep hill to climb financially."

The Detroit Free Press has details on what the proposed deal means for the DSO's finances:

The contract is likely to help DSO leaders reach a long-sought deal with the banks that hold the $54 million in debt on the Max and could foreclose on the building, forcing the DSO into bankruptcy. But a deal with the banks is likely to wipe out a large chunk of the rest of the endowment, said [DSO executive vice president Paul] Hogle.

That means the orchestra will have little margin for error as it tries to climb out of its financial hole. DSO leaders have to meet ambitious fund-raising goals to keep annual deficits from ballooning beyond projections -- while also finding a way to rebuild the endowment.