[Dixielandjazz] Musicians Helping Musicians

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Sep 6 06:35:10 PDT 2005

There is growing support for Musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina. Here's
what happening on the classical music scene. For sure, musicians are a
pretty wonderful group of people.


Many Helping Hands Offered to Louisiana Orchestra's Players

By DANIEL J. WAKIN September 6, 2005 NY Times

>From spare harp strings to violin repairs to a place to live and practice,
offers of help from around the country are pouring in to the musicians of
the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Other orchestras, mostly regional ensembles where the pool of available
musicians is small, are lending a hand, too. Many have offered temporary
jobs or the prospect of auditions to the Philharmonic's 66 players, who have
scattered around the country. All but one of the musicians had safely left
the city or were already elsewhere for summer engagements, members of the
orchestra said yesterday. The remaining player, Burton Callahan, a
violinist, had been preparing to board an evacuation bus over the Labor Day

"It looks like he may have made it," said David Rosen, a cellist in the
orchestra, who spoke from his parents' home in Santa Monica, Calif. "He's
not answering his phone. That's a good sign." He said Mr. Callahan continued
to receive phone calls through the week despite the absence of service in
most of the city.

Drew McManus, a classical music consultant and commentator, opened up his
blog (www.artsjournal.com/adaptistration) as a clearinghouse for the
Louisiana musicians. He said he had verified the whereabouts of about 35 of

The condition of the Orpheum Theater, where the orchestra is based, was not
clear, but the central business district of New Orleans where it is located
was flooded. Yesterday the orchestra management was trying to set up shop in
Baton Rouge, the state capital, and was posting information on another Web
site, groups.google.com/group/LPO-family. Job offers were posted there, too,
including one from a charter school outside Phoenix looking for a music

"There's just tons of support out there," said Karen Sanno, a Louisiana
Philharmonic violinist who drove for 18 hours to her parents' home in
Chicago as Katrina was closing in. "It's really amazing."

But maybe not surprising. The orchestra world is close-knit, with musicians
forming networks as early as music camps, which then solidify through summer
festivals, conservatory training and the tramp from orchestra to orchestra
over the years. 

"I think everybody is reaching out to those they identify with the most
closely," Ms. Sanno added. "They can imagine the situations."

The McManus site lists scores of offers, including housing and jobs. One
poster offered extra harp strings. A violinmaker in Maine offered free
repairs or instrument loans. The conductor of a community orchestra in
Andover, Mass., offered housing and contacts with Boston-area freelancers.

A composition software company held out jobs demonstrating its product. A
horn-playing couple in Keller, Tex., offered to line up students for wind
players. A Brooklyn College faculty member proposed the opportunity of
teaching master classes there.

Daniel L. Baldwin, a composer in Oklahoma, said he did not have much money
but could offer a room and the chance of a recital. In a telephone
interview, he said he could try to use his connections at Northwestern
Oklahoma State University in Alva.

"I know if it was me down there I would need and want some help," he said.

Many of those offering housing made it clear that there was space and
tolerance for practicing. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra advertised
substitute jobs for five violins, a cello and a double bass throughout the
season, with the promise that members would put Louisiana Philharmonic
musicians up in their homes.

Other institutions offering work or auditions included the Washington
National Opera, Shreveport Symphony, Tuscaloosa Symphony, Illinois Symphony,
Alabama Symphony, Baton Rouge Symphony and Memphis Symphony. By Monday, at
least three players already had offers of playing or teaching work.

"Musicians understand exactly how difficult it is to get even a low-paying
job to begin with," Mr. McManus said.

The Louisiana Philharmonic has a resilience all its own. After the New
Orleans Symphony collapsed amid heavy debts, the players in 1991 formed the
Louisiana Philharmonic. For several years, they worked for a pittance while
paying off the debt. The orchestra had made its way back to health, with a
budget of $4 million, about 75 concerts a year and a new music director
starting in 2006, Carlos Miguel Prieto.

It is one of the few professional American orchestras run by the players

"It's a very strongly bonded family," Mr. Rosen, the cellist, said.

But now, like every aspect of life in New Orleans, the Louisiana
Philharmonic's future lies in doubt.

Ken Kussman, the orchestra's operations manager, said it might be possible
to set up operation outside the city, possibly at the Pontchartrain Center
in Kenner, La., where the orchestra plays five concerts a year.

"There is that spirit of wanting to keep it going," said Mr. Kussman, who
was staying at a corporate apartment in Texas and planned to leave yesterday
for Baton Rouge. "The problem now is the logistics of everything." Speaking
of orchestra members, he continued, "At least before they could gather in
one room and argue about it."

"I think it will survive," he added. "I don't know what form it will survive
in. We just don't know what New Orleans will be like when this is all over.
What will the population be like? How many people will return? It's been a
very searing experience."

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