Local/State

Philadelphia Orchestra board OKs Chapter 11 filing

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra will be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The show did go on Saturday night for the Philadelphia Orchestra after the board voted earlier in the day in favor of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

A letter of explanation was included in the program for the Saturday night's audience.

"We're running low on cash and running a deficit, and we have to put ourselves into a position that will attract investment funds," explained Richard Worley, Chairman of the Orchestra Board.

Orchestra board chairman Richard Worley says the decision was made after an emotional meeting of the board Saturday. Officials say they'll make the filing in a federal bankruptcy court in Philadelphia.

Worley says the orchestra is running low on cash and has been running a deficit. But officials say concerts and business operations will continue, and a fundraising campaign is planned to try to save the 111-year-old orchestra, traditionally considered one of the best in the nation.

The board cites declining ticket revenues, decreased donations, and operational costs as some of the many factors contributing to their financial challenges.

The organization does have a $140 million endowment, but management defends that it is donor-restricted.

"It is restricted by donors and therefore not accessible by us as well," said Allison Vulgamore, President and CEO. "It is totally here for future of orchestra, that's how the endowment functions."

Musicians have opposed the plan. Cellist Jack Koen addressed the audience before the orchestra performed to say thank you to the audience for their support. The orchestra even performed a special piece before the schedule performance to show their gratitude.

Some audience members are worried that the players will go elsewhere, while others spoke of the importance of growing the audience.

"It's kind of seen I think as an upper class thing, and it needs to be more accessible everyone," Heather Shafter said.

"The orchestra has a standard of excellence, and it's like it's tarnished, you know?" said Quatana Samanen. "To think that orchestra members will be leaving to go to other orchestras because of what's happening."

"You expect to have a great orchestra in Philadelphia, so you would hope that people would rise up and maybe help the orchestra and keep it viable," said Jim Samanen.

Board members do have a new plan they're eager to file and move forward.

Details of a public fundraising campaign are expected to be rolled out in the coming days.

Orchestra musicians who object to a bankruptcy filing distributed leaflets to the audience before Thursday night's concert.

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