Music News & Reviews

Louisville Orchestra files Chapter 11 bankruptcy

LOUISVILLE — The Louisville Orchestra has filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 weeks before its 75th anniversary.

The filing includes a request to break its collective bargaining agreement with its players in the Louisville Federation of Musicians Local 11-637, The Courier-Journal reported. Orchestra CEO Robert Birman and board president Chuck Maisch told musicians about the move Friday at rehearsal.

The orchestra is seeking to reduce its number of full-time musicians from 71 to 55 and supplement that with 16 part-time professional musicians. It is seeking to reduce costs by about $1 million.

News of the Louisville situation has spread throughout the region in the past week. In an interview Tuesday, the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra's executive director, Allison Kaiser, and music director, Scott Terrell, said the news was sobering, but that the philharmonic is structurally very different from Louisville.

"They're a completely different orchestra set-up than we are," Terrell said. "They're much larger and have more complex issues than we do."

All of the philharmonic musicians are hired on a per-service basis as opposed to having salaried positions with the orchestra. So, between that, other staff, property and other costs, the philharmonic has much lower fixed costs than the Louisville Orchestra. And, Kaiser said, the Philharmonic is currently in good shape financially. But the news concerns the philharmonic leaders.

"It's the biggest orchestra in Kentucky," Terrell said. "So they are our relative in that regard, as a professional orchestra. It's scary."

Louisville CEO Birman said musicians have been paid through Dec. 15, and they weren't expected to miss any scheduled performances through that date. The Courier-Journal reports that it wasn't clear what happens after that date.