Miami Symphony musicians to start new season without pay
By Jonathon Gutierrez
The Miami Symphony Orchestra needs donations to continue as funding for the group has dropped so low that it cannot afford to pay musicians, said Manuel Ochoa, music director and conductor.
The 70 musicians who make up the orchestra have agreed to forego pay until November when the group will begin to see returns from ticket sales. The symphony is made up entirely of professional musicians, Mr. Ochoa said, likely to have no other source of income.
"Why is everybody else in this community compensated for their job?" he said. "Why are musicians and artists not to be compensated? Why are we not to be taken into consideration?"
The symphony, Mr. Ochoa said, survives on a combination of private funds from companies and individuals as well as grants from public agencies such as Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs, the Miami-Dade County Tourist Development Council and the Florida Arts Council.
Companies sponsoring the 2001-02 season include American Airlines, AT&T, Bacardi-Martini, BellSouth, the Biltmore Hotel, Diario Las Americas, The Green Cos., Hamilton Risk and Ocean Bank. Ticket sales account for about 30% of the symphony's yearly budget, Mr. Ochoa said.
The symphony received a $50,000 grant in January from the county's major cultural institutions grant program and $6,000 from the Tourist Development Council in May. According to Debbie Margol, deputy director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, the symphony has been recommended for another $50,000 grant next year.
Mr. Ochoa said all money for this season to date has been spent for overhead, such as advertising and rental of practice halls. The symphony's season begins Oct. 6 with Angel Romero, a classical guitarist from Spain.
"Some politicians and some people in the community said that music and symphony orchestras are only for the rich, a partial part of the community," Mr. Ochoa said. "Does that statement mean that the Heat, the Marlins, the new stadium are going to disappear or cannot be funded? Because in every major city, all of this is a need to show the importance and the potential of the city."
Ms. Margol said that she had not heard of the symphony's troubles but was not surprised.
"It's an expensive proposition to manage a nonprofit organization, especially one as complicated as the Miami Symphony," she said. It has not been a strong year for private individuals and philanthropic organizations. Tickets sale are only a fraction of what it takes to put something like that on stage."
Mr. Ochoa said he has pleaded with company executives and public officials to call the symphony's office and ask for complimentary tickets.
Created in 1989, the Miami Symphony was established to replace the Miami Philharmonic, which became the Florida Philharmonic, Mr. Ochoa said. That group closed in 1982 and has no relationship to the Florida Philharmonic, based in Fort Lauderdale.
"If, after coming to one of our performances, they don't like it or think that we don't achieve our objective, our high musical standards, I'll never ask anybody for help," Mr. Ochoa said. "Maybe I'll be obliged to say that this community doesn't deserve to have us."
Without additional funding, Mr. Ochoa said the symphony would probably close next year.
Details: (305) 275-5666.