Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra

Louisiana Philharmonic OrchestraThe Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra is a world-class orchestra with a unique history. The LPO grew out of the New Orleans Symphony when, at the beginning of the 1991-92 concert season, that orchestra declared bankruptcy. The timing turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The musicians, who had all returned to New Orleans expecting to perform, decided to run the ensemble themselves. Jim Atwood, the current acting president and principle timpanist explains, “The orchestra was all there in September. The Denver Symphony had done something similar and became the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. It just seemed like the thing to do.”

And so the LPO was born. The musicians did all the administrative work–everything from hiring personnel to making copies. They also began to raise money. Maxim Shostakovich, the son of the renowned composer Dmitri, agreed to continue conducting the orchestra and did so for a number of seasons. According to Jim the experience was truly a unique opportunity in that the “musicians have a better view of what it takes to run an orchestra.”

Since 1991 the LPO has become a solid and well-run organization. They have a well-rounded repertoire that includes world premieres of new music. And while the orchestra is still governed by the musicians, two-thirds of their Board of Directors comes from the community.

And then came Katrina. Like everything else in that area, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra feels the devastation. At the writing of this column, a season is planned throughout the rest of the year. Unfortunately, there is no payroll. However the Board did agree to send the musicians a small amount of aid. The issues that face the orchestra are complex. Will the city again be able to support an orchestra, particularly if the population is half of what it once was? Will local philanthropists fund other projects before they fund an orchestra?

Please visit the link to the LPO, www.lpomusic.com. I am also encouraging you to consider a donation, no matter how small every bit will help. The LPO came back from the brink of extinction once and I have every confidence that they can do it again. And so the next time you are in the Big Easy, you will find time to see a world-class performance of the music you love…I can think of no better preface to a cup of coffee and some beignets.

— Dave Schwartz