Musical director Michael Alexander said the 61-year-old orchestra, which changed its name from the Cobb Symphony Orchestra in May, canceled the concerts because they are trying to make responsible financial decisions. Its 2011-12 season began in October.
“We are being responsible with our resources,” he said Thursday afternoon. “Rather than put us at risk or in debt, we decided it would be more prudent to cancel some shows.”
None of the 50 people on the orchestra’s payroll will be laid off, Alexander said.
The orchestra employs two full-time employees, 10 artistic staff members and a number of part-time musicians.
General manager Susan Stensland said the 12-member board, led by Todd Youngblood, voted unanimously in late December to reduce the number of shows.
“This was a difficult decision for the board, stepping back and trying to rebuild,” she said. “We need to make sure we’re responsible stewards.”
The GSO has notified those who bought tickets for the canceled shows by phone or email, Stensland said.
Stensland said one-third of the musicians are paid professionally and the other two-thirds are volunteers.
“This was a sad decision for this year, but we do have a financial plan, and we believe we will be stronger than ever in the future,” Stensland said. “We have a wonderful artistic product and just need to get our structure built underneath to support it.”
She said the change in this season should not affect the 2012-13 season.
Canceled shows include a Composer’s Concert in January that was scheduled for this weekend, a March Masterworks performance, a Zion Celebration at Zion Baptist Church in April and a May Masterworks performance.
Still scheduled to go on for this season are GSO Jazz! at the Strand Theatre in February, A Musical Feast at Kennesaw State University in March and the GSO Chamber Chorus performance at Marietta First United Methodist Church in May.
Stensland said the youth orchestra, which includes about 400 young musicians across the state, would not be affected by the cancellations.
Alexander, who is in his seventh year with the orchestra, said one reason for the cancellations includes some funding falling through, but did not want to say whom or from what organizations those funds were expected to come from.
Alexander said that they are “very healthy” financially, but they have hit a few bumps in the road.
“We’ve grown enormously over the last seven years,” he said. “When I got here, the organization was way over debt. We are now completely under debt and our budget is over five times the size it was. … The economy certainly has not helped us, so we’re just making sure that we’re making decisions that we use the money that we have responsibly. We want to make sure we aren’t putting the organization into debt.”
Arts groups across the nation are canceling events, Alexander said.
“The arts are struggling with the economy being as it is, but everybody is going through this. We aren’t unique in that regard at all,” he said. “It’s not a good thing for the economy, not a good thing for the region, but we have to keep working to gain more and more support to be able to sustain work for the artists that we employ.”
As far as the mood of the orchestra members, Alexander said it is mixed.
“There are people who do this for a living who are losing money,” he said. “Their spirits are still good and they are proud to be making music with us, but it’s certainly a painful thing to have to go through.”
“I just think that’s its important that people understand that we do have close to 1,000 people who make music with us,” Alexander said. “We are a vital part of the community and the musical education of over 400 students across the region. We’re really vital to what’s happening in Cobb County and in the region and we’re still very excited to be a part of it.”
The orchestra’s home is the Murray Arts Center on the Mount Paran Christian School campus off Stilesboro Road in Kennesaw, however they perform in several locations around Cobb.
Anyone with questions about cancelled tickets may call the main office at (770) 429-7016.