DOWNTOWN ‚Äî Orchestral music groupies who were disappointed by the decision in August by the Santa Monica Symphony Association to suspend the 2012-13 season of free concerts because of a lack of money now have something to applaud.
Maestro Allen Robert Gross, who led the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra before the suspension, has been charged with directing a new group of professional, amateur and volunteer musicians under the banner of Orchestra Santa Monica.
This new venture, funded by donors and musicians who are committed to providing affordable concerts for the community, plans to offer three performances in its inaugural season, the first scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 27 at¬† 7:30 p.m. at Barnum Hall on the campus of Santa Monica High School, according to a press release issued by Orchestra Santa Monica last week.
A family concert is also planned as part of Santa Monica‚Äôs Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend celebration.
The next task will be raising enough funds through grants, ticket sales and donations to fund the third concert of the season, Gross said.
“We have a significant commitment to the community and Santa Monica is a city that is very proud of the level of cultural participation we have,” Gross said, explaining why he felt it was critical to resurrect orchestral music in the city by the sea following the Santa Monica Symphony‚Äôs suspension. “As we get going we hope to raise our profile and get significant support, both from personal donors, corporate support and grants to be able to continue this. We have a sustainable vision. We will be thriving.”
Gross was clear that Orchestra Santa Monica is not a “stop-gap” measure until the symphony resurfaces. Officials with the symphony said they hoped to reorganize and provide free concerts sometime in 2013.
“We intend to be a permanent, viable organization that represents the best of what Santa Monica has to offer,” Gross said.
Accomplishing that could prove to be difficult. Community orchestras across the country have found financial difficulty because of the struggling economy leading to a drop in donations. An aging fan base has also been cited as a factor for orchestras filing for bankruptcy.
Some suggestions that have been made to help these organizations survive include having fewer concerts, changing how musicians are paid to a per-concert model, creating more cutting-edge programming to attract a wider audience and appoint professionals in the field to the boards of directors.
If there is any community that can support an orchestra or symphony, it is Santa Monica.
According to a survey conducted by the Cultural Affairs Division at City Hall, 50 to 80 percent of households in Santa Monica are regular cultural consumers, depending on which zip code they are located in.
To learn more about Orchestra Santa Monica, visit orchestrasantamonica.org.