Honolulu Symphony Board Votes to File Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

This story appears in the November, 2009 edition of the Musicians’ Association of Hawaii, Local 677 AFM newspaper.

The 84 musicians of the Honolulu Symphony, like the general public, learned from newspapers and television that the Honolulu Symphony Society Board of Directors intends to file bankruptcy only four weeks into the season and less than two months after the musicians agreed to contract concessions worth more than $500,000. The decision was made in a hastily called meeting of the Board of Directors on October 30. With no agenda made available before the meeting, most Board members were unaware and unprepared for the action. Fourteen of the 18 Board members in attendance voted in favor of the motion. (There are 28 voting members of the Board.)

Symphony management publicly announced the postponement of concerts scheduled for November 7 and 8, and requested that the musicians release them from their obligation to pay salaries for that week and move the concerts to later in the season. The musicians responded with an offer to allow the rescheduling, but have not received confirmation that the offer was accepted. There also has been no official notification from management to the musicians concerning plans for future concerts. Most recently, many of the musicians learned, not from their employer, but from their insurance company, that their medical coverage had been cancelled.

Steve Dinion, Musician spokesperson said: “The actions of our employer have demonstrated both lack of under-standing of the orchestra business and reluctance to engage in dialogue with industry professionals to turn the organization around. Going forward with bankruptcy for this 110-year old institution risks the future of symphonic music in Hawaii for years to come.”
The musicians of the Honolulu Symphony have kept the music playing for the last two seasons even while suffering delayed payrolls of as much as 15 weeks. Concert attendance and the quality of musical performances have remained high in spite of these difficult conditions.

To date, the major financial support the Board expected to come with the new budget and new executive director has not materialized.

There will be more information forthcoming shortly. We will keep you informed as this difficult situation develops, as well as let you know of any opportunities that may arise for RMA members to be of support to our colleagues in Honolulu.