The Brampton Symphony Orchestra, locked in a months-long battle with the city over its annual funding allocation, has been accused of not paying its musicians for Mayor Susan Fennell’s last fundraising concert, which happened back in February.
Instead of paying musicians, Brampton Symphony CEO Michael Todd directed the orchestra’s funds toward securing artists for the next season. It’s a messy and unusual situation that is laid out clearly in an article in the Brampton Guardian.
The orchestra’s problems began before the sudden death of Robert Raines 18 months ago. He had served since 2002 as both artistic director and chief administrator, and enjoyed a close working relationship with Fennell.
Community orchestras are always shoestring operations, drawing on a mix of professional and amateur musicians. But the oft-shaky (musically as well as financially) crown of this particular tree hides deep roots that have direct links to the street.
Despite its shiny outer ring, there are hundreds of children in Brampton living under the poverty line, clustered around the decaying and derelict factories and warehouses just outside its historical core. Several musicians of the Brampton Symphony have been involved in El Sistema-type community outreach efforts to hook up at-risk children with group and individual music lessons. Many others are regular music teachers, keeping the art alive in all parts of that city.
If the orchestra folds, be it because of poor management or inconsistent funding, it’s not the patrons of the lovely Rose Theatre who will suffer, but the community’s young people. This is the real reason why any problems with a community orchestra deserve quick and decisive attention.