September traditionally marks the beginning of the new orchestra season but it also marks the beginning of the hurricane season for the Caribbean and Gulf Coast regions. Among the many hurricane Katrina related heartbreaking tales coming from Louisiana and Mississippi are those connected with its classical musicians.
The largest orchestral organization to be rocked by Hurricane Katrina is the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), which performed regularly in New Orleans' historic Orpheum Theater. The musicians and managers of the LPO are all safely out of the city, the final individual (violinist Burt Callahan) escaped his near lawless neighborhood last Thursday via an evacuation plane to Atlanta.
Unfortunately, many of the LPO musicians were out of the city already when the hurricane struck. They were returning home from their summer jobs performing in music festivals throughout the country and therefore didn't have the opportunity to remove personal possessions, music, and instruments from their homes before the floodwaters engulfed the city.
So what do you do when you have no home and job to return to and only a few suitcases of clothing, some personal items, and perhaps a car? Many musicians drove to stay with family and friends while they attempted to sort out the status of their home, possessions, and career.
David Anderson, LPO principal bass, and his wife turned their car north to stay with David's father, retired Cleveland Orchestra trombonist, Ed Anderson in Bloomington, Indiana. Rob Aistrup, LPO bassist, and his wife Nicki, LPO violinist, and their toddler age triplets, first went to stay with family and then headed off toward Boston looking for work opportunities. LPO harpist, Rachel Van Voorhes, was finishing up her time performing in the Grand Teton Music Festival when she discovered that her home was completely folded. She is currently staying with a generous GTMF board member until she can sort out what to do next.
The stories go on and on; some LPO musicians and managers were able to flee New Orleans with more, some with much less. Nevertheless, each of these individuals is in a difficult position as they put together their lives while the likelihood of returning home to their homes and regular concert season is slim at best.
Many are in need of housing, financial assistance, and work opportunities. Some of those needs are tougher to fill than others in the current job market for classical musicians. In order to help the displaced musicians I opened up my daily weblog, Adaptistration, as a clearinghouse to help bring together those looking for assistance with those who have assistance to offer.
Within the first week, the outpouring of support has been heartwarming. There are over 100 offers for short and long term housing from individuals across the country, there are over 20 immediate job offers for arts managers, and over 40 offers for temporary performing and teaching opportunities. Many displaced individuals have been able to take advantage of these generous offers.
On a positive note I'm not the only individual offering assistance to these displaced musicians, The American Federation of musicians, the American Symphony Orchestra League, and MusiCares have all established fundraising efforts designed to help individual musicians and the organizations they belong to. Add to that the growing number of orchestras and professional musicians across the country who are staging Katrina benefit concerts and the prospects for the LPO and other displaced organizations is looking brighter every day.
Right now, one of the most important priorities for the LPO as an organization is to begin finding a way for the orchestra to remain together as a cohesive performing ensemble. To that end, their management has set up shop in Baton Rouge, LA and is currently making plans to asses the situation of their offices and the Orpheum Theater in order to decide the best course of action.
In The Meantime, Here's What You Can Do To Help
- Offer temporary or long term housing to a displaced musician and their family. Click here.
- Help locate teaching and performing work for displaced musicians. Click here.
- Pass along information you may have about the whereabouts of LPO musicians & managers as well as other displaced musicians. Click here.
- Donate to any of the three funds mentioned above. Click here.
- Attend one of the many benefit concerts offered throughout the country. Click here.
Be An Angel
Although each and every offer of individual assistance is greatly appreciated what the LPO needs right now is an angel, meaning they need a large donor (or group of donors) to step forward with enough financial means to keep the orchestra together for the 2005-2006 season until New Orleans becomes inhabitable. How much is enough? Think $3 million to $4million.
That level of support will put the organization in a position to compensate musicians and mangers well enough that they can weather being away from their homes for a year while also allowing the ensemble to stay together as a family while performing in the Louisiana region or perhaps even embark on a regional or national tour to raise additional funds.
I know the angel(s) are out there and if you're reading this, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
so you can get in touch with the people from the LPO who need your help.