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Sustainable Orchestras: Securing the Future

Is there a long-term, sustainable model for financing an orchestra? Find out what the panel had to say at our first ever Orchestra Section Conference.

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Is there a long-term, sustainable model for financing an orchestra? We asked a panel at the forefront of current thinking in the field, at our first ever Orchestra Section Conference.

“A great orchestra… they are at the heart of things”. The players are the most important assets any orchestra has, says John Summers (Chief Executive, Hallé Concerts Society ), and yet they are still not paid enough.  Catherine Arlidge (Sub-Principal 2nd Violin, CBSO) agrees, “Conductors come and go, managers come and go but the musicians are the stability of our orchestras”.

“Being in an orchestra is about more than being a musician; it is about being part of an inspirational organisation”. Catherine suggested that musicians are also key to fundraising as the people best placed to communicate the value of orchestras and music. Where orchestras fall down is in nurturing musicians as fundraisers, she argues, and really celebrating the musicians they have.

Public funding is going down. Even with funding settlements from Arts Council England rozen for the next few years, inflation will eat into it. While some public funding has come through different routes, it’s not enough to negate the effects of years of arts funding cuts. This means British orchestras will lose out says Mark Pemberton (Director, Association of British Orchestras), especially when compared to well-funded orchestras abroad.

The classical music business model is a mystery to those outside our industry. Notably to many people brought onto Boards to help orchestras make money, argues Mark. Commercial businesses may try to increase their profit by producing more with less but, as Mark explains, a Beethoven string quartet needs as many musicians now as it did when it was written. 

The Musicians’ Union is proud to represent members who play with orchestras up and down the UK – from the being part of the campaign to save the Ulster Orchestra and lobbying government for arts funding, to collective bargaining on players’ behalves. For more on any of the issues raised, and how we can support you, get in touch with our Orchestral team.


Published: 14/01/2016

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