Although the Philadelphia Orchestra is considered one of the very best in the world, declining ticket sales coupled with a devastating economy have taken a toll on the back end. A shrinking endowment and looming raises for the musicians may tip the board to file for Chapter 11 protection.
A yea or nay vote is expected at an orchestra board meeting on Saturday.
The musicians are overdue for a new contract; it’s been almost four years since their last negotiation. If the board files for bankruptcy protection, it may enable the orchestra to avoid giving raises.
With bankruptcy, a musicians’ strike is possible but not inevitable. But the mere consideration of bankruptcy is damaging enough.
“It’s dangerous for a cultural institution that relies on its patrons and donors to advertise that it’s been doing its business so poorly that it has to restructure its business,” said John Koen, a cellist and chair of the members committee of musicians. “And, quite frankly, Chapter 11 has not been successfully done to an orchestra anywhere near the size and reputation of the Philadelphia Orchestra.”
Bankruptcy does not mean the orchestra will cease to perform. Should bankruptcy protection be sought, there are many options both legal and administrative before a shutdown would occur.
However, when the San Diego Symphony filed Chapter 11 in 1998, it didn’t sound a note for two years.