To listen to Louisville Orchestra CEO Rob Birman discuss his organization’s financial problems, you’d almost think that crisis is a business-as-usual status for the 74-year-old musicians group.
Birman, speaking at the Breakfast of Champions event at the University Club, presented a history that included strikes, near-bankruptcies and other troubles that mar the Orchestra’s past, while noting the group rose to national fame decades ago. But as the Orchestra emerges from bankruptcy, Birman says it will no longer rely on the three Bs — Bailouts, Bequests and Borrowing. He said it will no longer operate in a “chronic state of despair” and instead abide by a new guiding principle — that its costs and reliable income remain equal.
One idea to achieve that is a three-tier plan that, instead of having 71 full-time employees, would have 40 musicians employed 30 weeks, a second tier with 18 members who work 20 weeks, and 13 who would work as needed.
And since the city has provided $20,000 for a consultant, Birman wants to create a plan that will “inculcate the love of music” in the community.
“It’s a bold and ambitious plan,” he said.
The plan includes a potential Orchestra symphony center (location undetermined) that would foster the organization’s goals outside of performances. Birman imagined a location that would be home to teaching, training, a resource center, a community partner and advocacy group.
He acknowledged is is challenging to spark interest in the Orchestra, which is why he advocates a bolder plan for the future.