Cleveland Orchestra to Winter in Miami The Cleveland Orchestra, among the world's finest, has ventured south to find financial support. Its winter home will be the Miami Performing Arts Center, built to house the now-bankrupt Florida Philharmonic.
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Cleveland Orchestra to Winter in Miami

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Cleveland Orchestra to Winter in Miami

Cleveland Orchestra to Winter in Miami

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What many consider the world's greatest symphony orchestra is strapped for money in one of America's poorest cities. So the Cleveland Orchestra flew to Miami to broaden its audience and expand its market. The orchestra completed the first of 10 annual visits last night and enjoyed a warm Florida welcome and sold-out concerts. But this new residency is not without controversy.

From member station WKSU, Vivian Goodman reports.

VIVIAN GOODMAN: The propped-open door from the parking lot into the grand foyer of Severance Hall lets in a cold wind and hundreds of elementary school children. They pull off their mittens and mufflers as their parents hustle them in for a mid-morning concert. Educating children about classical music is how the Cleveland Orchestra got started in 1915. It has evolved into one of America's legendary top five.

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GOODMAN: Renowned for the chamber music quality of its ensemble playing, it's been called the most European of American orchestras.

Mr. HARVEY SACHS (Music Critic): Music lovers in Europe think that Cleveland must be like Paris because of the orchestra.

GOODMAN: Music critic Harvey Sachs has to tell them Cleveland is no Paris. The orchestra's director, Gary Hanson, runs a world-class orchestra in a city with a 32 percent poverty rate. He needed a new business plan.

Mr. GARY HANSON (Cleveland Orchestra): In order to fund the national and international activities of the Cleveland Orchestra, we need to rely on resources from outside Cleveland.

GOODMAN: Miami is one of the most lucrative markets for classical music, making it more than worthwhile for the Cleveland Orchestra to visit once a year. In Miami this season, patrons have paid as much as $345 for a three-concert series to hear the orchestra play Beethoven, Mahler, Tchaikovsky and, in deference to the city's Hispanic culture, two works by Argentinean composers Osvaldo Golijov and Alberto Ginastera.

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GOODMAN: Four concerts in January and two this weekend are part of a 10-year deal for the Cleveland Orchestra to take up residence in Miami for three weeks every winter. The reaction...

Mr. JUSTIN MacDONNELL (Carnival Performance Arts Center): Oh, enormous excitement.

GOODMAN: Justin MacDonnell is artistic director of Miami's brand new, half-billion-dollar Carnival Performing Arts Center. It quickly sold out for all six Cleveland Orchestra performances.

Mr. MacDONNELL: It's going to be one of the highlights of our opening season. And I think it will be one of the highlights of all of our seasons.

GOODMAN: But there have been a few discordant notes.

Mr. LUIGI MAGNANINI(ph) (Bassoon Player): The Cleveland Orchestra will prevent Miami from having an orchestra of their own for many years to come.

GOODMAN: Luigi Magnanini played bassoon in the now-defunct Florida Philharmonic. It was supposed to be the resident orchestra in the new Carnival Center. But the 19-year-old orchestra went bankrupt in 2003. Miami is now the only major American city without a resident professional orchestra.

Former artistic adviser to the Florida Philharmonic, Julian Krieger(ph), says having the Cleveland Orchestra in Miami is terrific.

Ms. JULIAN KRIEGER (Artistic Adviser): You know, the mixed emotion is that if there's fundraising here to support the Cleveland Orchestra, that somehow detracts from the formation of a new orchestra of quality in the area.

GOODMAN: Competition for local funding is a concern. It costs $3.5 million to bring the Cleveland Orchestra to Miami each year. The world-renowned orchestra is also bound to outdraw local ensembles. But part of the controversy about the Cleveland's Miami residency focuses on a prominent former Clevelander.

Daniel Lewis now lives in Miami and heads up the fundraising team for Cleveland's Miami residency. He was instrumental in getting it established. But it was also Daniel Lewis, who as board chairman presided over the shutdown of the Florida Philharmonic in 2003. Jeffrey Hale(ph) was then one of its players.

Mr. JEFFREY HALE (Musician): Our feeling is he just didn't care anything about the Florida Philharmonic and wanted Cleveland here and had his - really had his own agenda.

GOODMAN: Days before the Florida Philharmonic shut down, Daniel Lewis offered $16 million of his own money if others would kick in four million. Miami Herald music critic Lawrence Johnson wasn't surprised that the last-minute challenge wasn't met.

Mr. LAWRENCE JOHNSON (Music Critic, Miami Herald): But I think it's fair to say that he's correct that if the Philharmonic could only be kept going by his own money, it probably did not have a future in South Florida because it shouldn't be the Dan Lewis orchestra. It should have been - enjoyed a wider base of support, and even when it was clear that the orchestra was very shaky, people did not come forward to support the orchestra.

GOODMAN: Daniel Lewis did not respond to requests from NPR for comment for this story. But Miami music critic Lawrence Johnson says by the time Lewis joined the board of the philharmonic in 2002, the orchestra was already reeling from financial and administrative problems, and a labor crisis.

Mr. JOHNSON: The musicians strike in 2000 in many ways was kind of a death knell. I think in many ways, the orchestra never recovered from the strike.

GOODMAN: Cleveland Orchestra Director Gary Hanson says his orchestra's presence may actually help revive the Florida Philharmonic.

Mr. HANSON: The presence of the Cleveland Orchestra will greatly increase the market in Miami, the audience in Miami, for great symphonic music.

GOODMAN: Orchestra management consultant Drew McManus says it would help more, though, if the Cleveland Orchestra took an active role.

Mr. DREW McMANUS (Management Consultant, Cleveland Orchestra): If not, it looks a little too much like you're there just to pull out what you can to help your own bottom line.

GOODMAN: Cleveland may not be the only major orchestra venturing outside its base for financial support. The Pittsburgh Symphony is considering a winter residency in West Palm Beach.

For NPR News, I'm Vivian Goodman in Cleveland.

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