Long before Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing raises his baton on Sept. 16 to open the 2017-18 season of the San Antonio Symphony at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, the oldest symphony in Texas will undergo profound change.
Before the audience fills the 1,746-seat H-E-B Performance Hall, new symphony leadership needs to put the organization’s house in order.
Opening night promises to be a splendid and dynamic performance of Beethoven featuring world-class pianist Emanuel Ax. You can read a preview of the symphony’s 2017-2018 season by David Hendricks, the longest-serving member of the Express-News newsroom. Hendricks is a business columnist, but for years he has faithfully attended just about every performance of the orchestra and then written a critical review on deadline.
It’s another Express-News veteran, however, who will lead the efforts to reorganize the symphony’s business operations and put the organization on a solid footing. Former publisher Tom Stephenson is charged with balancing the books, eliminating a culture of deficit spending, laying the groundwork for giving the underpaid musicians and staff overdue pay raises, and demonstrating fiscal stewardship to keep donors donating.
Some of the smart money in town has written off the symphony as a hopeless cause, a weak business with high overhead that has lost its community appeal. I disagree. Today’s symphony leaders are blamed for the sins of the past when an endowment was recklessly misspent.
Today’s musicians are, literally, world-class. Under the talented Lang-Lessing, we are experiencing the best classical music performance ever heard in the city. The community outreach programs have been equally far-reaching. The community investment in the Tobin Center, meanwhile, has given this city a world-class performing arts hall, but its value is in the resident performers, including the opera, ballet, and others. The…