Concert Association’s demise appears imminent with the rest of the season an open question

By Lawrence A. Johnson

The staus of Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic, who are scheduled to perform in Miami Feb. 26, remains uncertain.

The status of Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic, who are scheduled to perform in Miami Feb. 26, remains uncertain.

The cash-strapped Concert Association of Florida, leading presenter of classical music and dance for more than four decades in South Florida, is poised to file for bankruptcy as early as this week.

“It breaks my heart,” said Judy Drucker, founder and longtime guiding light of the two-county presenting organization. “I’m sure they tried their best to work things out, but it’s a sad day for music in Florida.”

While Concert Association officials declined to discuss its financial status midweek, sources indicate that the organization is attempting to broker a deal with the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale to assume control of CAF’s remaining season events at their venues. At the Arsht Center  this would include violinist Mark O’Connor on Feb 22 and Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic Feb. 26.  Last month, the Concert Association announced that they would drop their Broward County series next season.

“We’re working with other parties to try and make sure the shows go on,” said attorney Robert Hudson, chairman of the Concert Association board. “I’m still in the midst of negotiations with certain parties on things we’re trying to make happen in a positive, affirmative way.”

Rumors have been flying for weeks that the organization’s bankruptcy filing had happened or was imminent. Hudson said Tuesday no filing had taken place and likely would not occur until an agreement could be made to salvage the rest of the season under different auspices. “If we file for bankruptcy, then I have no authority to work out arrangements and continue to put the shows on,” he said. “It will be in the hands of a trustee.”

Though timing details remain unclear, what seems inescapable is the Concert Association’s impending bankruptcy, which marks the end of the organization that brought major international orchestras and classical and dance artists to local music lovers for four decades.  WIth a substantial backing gift by millionaire attorney P. Daniel Orlich last fall, it seemed the Concert Association might have a chance of survival. But sources stated that CEO Al Milano fell far short of raising the matching funds Orlich requested. 

Over Drucker’s four-decade tenure, first-class artists like Luciano Pavarotti, Leonard Bernstein, Isaac Stern and Vladimir Horowitz came to Miami to perform, as well as virtually all the leading American and international orchestras.

When Drucker agreed to retire in the summer of 2007, incoming CEO Al Milano promised that he would run a tighter financial ship and greatly increase fund-raising and donations. Less than two years later, the Concert Association’s demise seems a certainty. 

 While Palm Beach County audiences still have their choice of events at the Kravis Center, music fans in Miami-Dade and Broward counties now have no regular entity presenting international classical artists, apart from Florida Grand Opera’s new Superstar Concert Series—helmed by Drucker, who is currently FGO’s artistic advisor. 

Historically, the Broward Center has shown little interest in presenting classical events of its own accord and while the Arsht Center appears more open to doing so, it’s likely too late for them to field enough quality artists to mount a respectable series in 2009-2010.

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7 Responses to “Concert Association’s demise appears imminent with the rest of the season an open question”

  1. Posted Feb 11, 2009 at 9:25 pm by Dave R.

    I’m looking forward to hearing Milano’s idiotic excuse this time. The New York Phil has been soldout in Palm Beach for a while. Concert Association? Still plenty of tickets. You could’ve tried to run the Concert Association into the ground and not done it better than Milano has. This is a sad day for music in South Florida, but it almost serves the guy right.

  2. Posted Feb 12, 2009 at 2:41 pm by Isabelle D

    I wish all these organizations ( and local newspapers ) could have worked to promote, hire, develop LOCAL organizations in the past years. There are plenty of local orchestras, ensembles, dance companies, Choral groups to perform in South Florida… I believe Arsht Center was not a necessity for Miami. We already had decent theaters ( never sold out – although full by giving away free tickets to the board members and friends ) in Miami ( 3 ), a great venue in Broward and Palm Beach. I respect and appreciate what Ms. Drucker was able to accomplish all these years. But forcing organizations like CAF or MCB to have mega stars and productions to please the requirements of Arsht Center was definitively a mistake. Now they are all paying the consequences and audiences are suffering the lack of affordable shows.
    A pity.. Arts should be managed by more sensitive people and not by BIG salaried CEOs.

  3. Posted Feb 12, 2009 at 2:53 pm by Richard Tremarello

    I have always wondered why there was so much effort in Florida to bring in orchestras from all over the world. Perhaps this is a valuable lesson that resources should be spent on local professional orchestras which provide local income and who’s employees are vested in the community.

  4. Posted Feb 12, 2009 at 3:02 pm by ron

    Bravo Dave !
    Didn’t Milano get fired from the Arscht Center for incompetence? The weasel then “befriended” Judy Drucker long enough to get a position at Concert Association only to get her kicked out of the organization she started. What type of board would not see through his shenanigans and dishonesty? He has single-handedly ruined the Concert Association. It is a SAD day for music in South Florida. God help us if Al Milano gets another position here. He should move back to where he came from.
    This community has suffered enough.

  5. Posted Feb 12, 2009 at 4:13 pm by Dave R.

    Isabelle and Richard: I respectfully disagree. Why can’t we have local and international performers in South Florida? This isn’t a small town; we should be able to support both (every other comparably-sized city seems to). When the Florida Philharmonic was alive, I attended Florida Phil and CAF performances, in addition to others. Now I support the New World Symphony and others. This shouldn’t be an either/or situation. When a person attends a performance by, say, the Chicago Symphony, they might develop an interest in classical music that makes them want to see a local orchestra perform. The reverse is true, too.

    Also, regarding the comment, “I have always wondered why there was so much effort in Florida to bring in orchestras from all over the world,” the demise of the Concert Association does not at all reflect a lack of interest in international orchestras. Low attendance was never a problem at the pre-Milano CAF, and the Kravis Center performances draw big crowds. I think the demise of the CAF reflects Milano’s incompetence.

    A person who loves classical music wants to see and hear as much as possible. A classical music lover in South Florida wants to be part of and experience the worldwide musical scene. Saying that we should place more emphasis on local orchestras, etc., is kind of like saying we should only emphasize local rock bands that play in small clubs and not the big acts that play at the big arenas. Like I said, we’re not a small town.

  6. Posted Feb 13, 2009 at 4:35 am by Helen Kamioner

    Judith Drucker was the heart and soul of this organization. The demise of a household name in Miami is the fault of those who came after her….the proof is in the pudding. I too have been in this business for many years, and Judy was the queen and will remain that way in the hearts and minds of all who had the privillege to work with her. She was innvoative, gave with her blood and guts, and a woman of impeccable taste and culture. Al Milano should be criminally charged for bringing down one of America’s most important Arts Institutions. Long live the Queen.

  7. Posted Feb 14, 2009 at 2:09 pm by Ricky

    Dave R – I couldn’t agree with you more. Well put. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life and if were only given the option to see and hear local organizations, we would, eventually, turn into an insular community, shut out from the rest of the classical music world. There has to be a good balance between local orchestras and ensembles and those that come from elsewhere. In London you have a plethora of first rate orchestras and ballet companies, that doesn’t mean that the Berlin Phil or ABT or the Kirov shouldn’t perform there. I’ve always made it a point to support both homegrown organization and those that tour here and I’ve found it works very well, indeed. Whether it’s exclusively Milano’s fault or simply a sign of the times I can’t honestly say because I’m not there for the day to day, but the end result is very sad news for SF. Let’s hope that both the Arsht Center and the Broward Center will step up to the plate and fill the gaping hole left by the demise of the CAF. Judy, I’m afraid many of us took you for granted and we now realize just how big the loss was and the ENORMOUS debt this community owes you. I wish you nothing but continued success in your new role at FGO.

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