Louisville Orchestra musicians fear threat of bankruptcy

Kim Tichenor
Kim Tichenor

Louisville, KY - By Elizabeth Donatelli - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – It has been a staple in Louisville for nearly 75 years, but one musician says the Louisville Orchestra could be facing bankruptcy. Slashing salaries and staff is one option to keep the orchestra alive, but the musicians have another idea.

Kim Tichenor has played the violin since she was three. Originally from New York, Tichenor moved to Louisville 10 years ago to play in the orchestra. She is one of 71 people getting ready to celebrate a big milestone.

"The Louisville Orchestra is on the eve of its 75th birthday and that is a very unique fundraising opportunity," said Tichenor.

But the talk of bankruptcy has the orchestra hitting a low note. Tichenor tells us CEO Robert Birman says the way to prevent it is to cut 16 full-time musicians and cut the remaining salaries by 20 percent to less than $29,000 a year.

"(Musicians) as it is with a salary of $34,000 are having a hard time getting by, so to talk about a 20 percent pay cut, I know that that would impact people quite negatively," said Tichenor.

According to International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, Louisville musicians make significantly less than those in nearby cities. In Cincinnati, they make more than $84,000 annually. In Indianapolis, they make $71,000 and in Nashville $51,000. But the orchestras in each of those cities have more musicians and longer seasons.

Birman declined an interview, but said on the phone nothing was set in stone. This is part of a statement he sent out: "Talks are ongoing and all parties seek the same outcome; a long-term, sustainable path to a vital future..."

Speaking on behalf of fellow musicians, Tichenor said they are an "underutilized resource" and would be willing to fundraise for the organization.

"We're teachers, you know private teachers, churchgoers, family members, etc, so if you think about those 71 people and how they are an integral part of this community, the fundraising possibilities really are endless," said Tichenor who wants to start a grassroots campaign in honor of the orchestra's 75th anniversary.

The musicians are set to meet with the Orchestra on Nov. 16 to discuss options.

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