Philharmonic Overture 

Rising from the ashes of the CSSO

Less than three business days after the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra was officially buried, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic rose from the ashes in hopes that the long tradition of orchestral music in Colorado Springs will survive.

Former CSSO executive director Susan Greene -- who was ousted last year despite her popularity among musicians -- will head the business end of the newly created Philharmonic as the organization scrambles to raise the funds necessary to stay afloat.

"Trust me, we have all learned some very important lessons," said Greene, "and the community has also learned how fragile organizations like this are."

The Philharmonic was organized in the wake of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy of the CSSO, which was embroiled in controversy for several months.

In January, relations between the CSSO's board of directors and the musician's union broke down when the organization began to experience severe financial trouble. The board wanted the musicians to break their contract and accept a dramatic pay cut. Incensed, musicians criticized the board for a lack of fund-raising efforts, which exacerbated the financial crisis.

A month after the CSSO filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11, the musicians' union severed all ties between the CSSO. The symphony filed for Chapter 7 on March 12.

While the reorganization may seem hasty to some, Greene insisted that any restructuring had to happen quickly so that the musicians can be paid as quickly as possible. The musicians have not received a paycheck since last December.

"We have to seize the moment," Greene said. "We have all the elements [for an orchestra], but it won't be here for long if these people don't have a chance to make a living in their chosen profession."

Music director Lawrence Leighton Smith -- who had resigned in the wake of the symphony controversy -- will return to lead the Philharmonic, as will a majority of musicians from the CSSO.

"The unity I have seen I have never witnessed anyplace," Smith said of the musicians' efforts to reorganize.

Neither Larry Barrett, former executive director of the CSSO, nor Shawn Raintree, former board president of the CSSO, could be reached for comment on the development as of press time. However, in a press release issued on March 12, Raintree -- who had been sharply criticized by the musicians -- indicated that the CSSO had decided to file for Chapter 7 " in hopes the path will be cleared for others to develop new or expand existing resources for sustainable symphonic music programs in the Pikes Peak region."

Colorado Springs attorney Thomas R. Cross has been appointed the Philharmonic's new board chairman, and indicated that he hopes to have a board of seven to nine members in place within 60 days.

Financially, while the Philharmonic will not inherit any of the CSSO's debts, it could acquire some of the CSSO's remaining assets, including some instruments and the vast music library.

Mary Ellen McNally, president of the Colorado Springs Symphony Foundation -- a separate organization that was established to help ensure the long-term financial health of the CSS0 -- doesn't know yet what will become of the foundation's remaining assets or whether they will help support the Philharmonic.

All contributions to the CSP are currently being handled by the Pikes Peak Community Foundation. Checks can be made out to CSP/PPCF and mailed to P.O. Box 1443, Colorado Springs, CO 80901.

-- Noel Black


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