Concert Association to abandon its Broward Center series
The Concert Association of Florida will drop its Broward Center lineup next season, drawing the curtain on a series that brought the world’s top classical artists and orchestras to Fort Lauderdale for nearly two decades.
“This really could be the end of classical music in Broward County,” said Sue Gunzburger, Broward County commissioner and a leading advocate for the arts. “We lost the Florida Philharmonic and now we lose this.”
“It’s a substantial loss for classical music,” added Mary Becht, director of Broward County’s Cultural Division. “Their situation has been fragile for a long time. The demise of the Florida Philharmonic was the saddest day of my life and this just makes things worse.”
Robert Hudson, chairman of the Concert Association board, said he wasn’t aware any definitive decision had been made but Broward Center officials and arts groups received letters from Concert Association CEO Al Milano last week announcing their plans.
Concert Association founder and long-time president Judy Drucker started her Fort Lauderdale series with the opening of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in 1991. Over the years, the series has featured classical artists such as Mstislav Rostropovich, Renee Fleming, and Maxim Vengerov, all the major American orchestras (Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras) and most of the top international orchestras as well.
Just a few years ago, the Broward Center schedule was the jewel of the two-county Concert Association lineup, consistently outselling events in Miami-Dade. That began to change in 2006-2007 when ticket prices were substantially raised. Subscriber flight accelerated in recent seasons with the controversy over Drucker’s departure and subscribers’ lack of enthusiasm about what many considered less starry events compared to those being offered at the new Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center in Miami.
It was clear that the Concert Association’s Broward series was in deep trouble at this season’s opening event in November with a less-than-half-full house for Valery Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra.
News of the end of the Broward series was greeted with dismay but not surprise by subscribers, who felt the quality had gone downhill after Drucker left in the summer of 2007.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Robert Kaufman, who has been a subscriber with his wife, Mercedes for over fifteen years. “We had a long spell when Judy was running things when it was quite successful. But the last couple of years have been worse than disappointing since the change in regime.”
David Rosenbaum once regularly attended Concert Association events at the Broward Center. “The programming has been bad for the last few years, which is why I stopped going,” he said. Rosenbaum also questioned the prices being charged, particularly those for the Concert Association’s new local freelance ensemble, the Florida Symphony. “I was willing to support the new orchestra but not at a hundred bucks a ticket.”
The Concert Association events for this season are still scheduled to take place, with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in Miami tomorrow night, and the Czech Symphony Sunday in Fort Lauderdale. The latter concert is being presented not at the Broward Center but at the smaller, out-of-the-way Parker Playhouse.
Subscriber Kaufman seemed to speak for many when he said that mismanagement and a lack of commitment to classical music by current Concert Association officials was as much to blame as the harsh economy. He also believes that Broward Center leadership was complicit in the collapse of the classical series due to the center’s lack of commitment in providing available dates for the Concert Association.
“They made it quite clear that they weren’t going to go out of their way to encourage and foster classical music,” said Kaufman. “They made a bad situation worse.”
Gunzburger said that while hard economic times undoubtedly played its part in the decline of Broward audiences in recent seasons, much of the blame was self-inflicted due to steep ticket price increases and fewer top orchestras being presented in Fort Lauderdale.
“They lost the Broward audience,” said Gunzburger of the Concert Association. “The premiere events were all at the Arsht Center.”
She said that she hoped that Kelley Shanley, the recently appointed new president of the Broward Center, would consider starting a new classical series to fill the void, something previous Broward Center leaders had shown little interest in pursuing, preferring more profitable Broadway musicals.
“You have to have a balance of events,” she said. “I’m very concerned that we have no classical music in Broward. People should have a wide variety of choices of events to attend.”
Kaufman, a retired senior in Boca Raton, said people like him who reside in southern Palm Beach County are more likely to attend Kravis Center events now in West Palm Beach rather than drive the longer distance to Miami. “We’ll just cherry-pick individual concerts.”
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Wed Jan 21, 2009
at 11:41 am