Friday, July 29, 2011

Sad, but well done

The StageImage by GlenBledsoe via FlickrThe hardest thing, many organizations find, is knowing when to stop.

Many never figure it out and they struggle on, consuming resources and generating debts, until finally they flicker out, leaving unpaid debts, exhausted volunteers, and (often) unpaid staffers behind.

It's sad, in a way, that the Salem Community Concert Association has folded. On the other hand, good for their leadership for being able to read the handwriting on the wall and knowing enough not to plow on despite the warnings until the iceberg was hit (I don't know how many walls there are up in the frigid polar waters where the icebergs are, but mixing metaphors is at most a misdemeanor offense on the information highway, right?).
The Salem Community Concert Association, the oldest concert series in the area, is ending after 74 years.

The organization has canceled the five concerts planned for 2011-12 because lagging season-ticket sales would not cover expenses, board president Esther Ediger announced Tuesday.

"We had lots of projects, we had lots of hopes, and we had some promises, but not enough money in the bank," said Ediger. "We used up all our reserves."

The organization had sold just 140 season tickets for the coming season, far short of what it needed to make its budget of about $27,000.

Rather than go into debt, the board decided unanimously last week to dissolve. Volunteers planned to mail refunds to season-ticket buyers and donors on Tuesday.

In the series' heyday, concert-goers snapped up all 1,000 season tickets, guaranteeing financial success.

As a result, the concert association could attract world-famous musicians including classical guitarist Christopher Parkening, opera singer Roberta Peters and pianist Misha Dichter.

But in recent years, the concert association's loyal core has aged, said Ediger, and more events have competed for music lovers' money. Season-ticket sales slipped from 240 three years ago.

"We've seen changes in the way people do things, the way they buy tickets and the growth of Salem art associations," she said. "We wish everyone well, but there is so much to choose from." . . .
Good for them for having the courage to face the facts, for exiting with grace, and leaving the field to other, more vital groups, rather than dividing the shrinking pie up into ever smaller slices. The arts scene in Salem is better off for this decision, regrettable though it is. If you know any of the leadership of the SCCA, thank them for all that they offered through the years, and also for not trying to live on past what the community was willing to support.
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