Detroit orchestra hopes Kid Rock show raises $1M
FILE - In a Jan. 15, 2011 file photo, Kid Rock performs at Ford Field in Detroit. The musician is known for dabbling in all kinds of musical genres: hip-hop, hard rock, country and Southern rock. Classical? Not so much. But he jumped at the chance to play a show with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, May 12, 2012. The concert is designed to raise some much-needed cash for the DSO, which has been on shaky financial ground in recent years. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
DETROIT (AP) — This time last year, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was about a month removed from a contentious musicians' strike that worsened its already strained finances. Now, the rebounding organization aims to raise the roof — and hopefully $1 million — with help from a hometown musician known more for rock, rap and country than classical.
The orchestra will collaborate with Kid Rock on Saturday in a benefit concert at the Fox Theatre, down the street from the ensemble's Orchestra Hall home. Tickets start at $100, though VIP tickets fetch as much as $1,500 and include an after-party with the genre-jumping artist who still lives in suburban Detroit.
Kid Rock, who was born Robert Ritchie and grew up in Macomb County, Mich., is volunteering his services. So are Detroit Symphony Music Director Leonard Slatkin and orchestra members. Proceeds will help pay symphony musicians for community outreach and education efforts.
"As a musician, and of course a Detroiter, I am proud to be supporting this longstanding cultural institution," Kid Rock has said of his show with the orchestra. A spokesman for the musician declined to make him available to comment for this story.
One night — even one that rocks and rolls in big money — doesn't erase bigger, long-term woes for the internationally recognized orchestra. Musicians agreed to major concessions during the six-month strike that ended in April of last year, but that's only slowed the orchestra's $2.5 million-to-$3 million annual drain of a roughly $14 million endowment that it draws from to survive. And officials have been mired in a so-far unsuccessful effort to restructure a $54 million bank loan on a real estate deal for the Max M. Fisher Music Center.
The lingering debt came before the labor strife but it's "certainly become more acute after the strike and we returned to concerts," said Paul Hogle, the orchestra's executive vice president. Hogle said as long as the money is owed, the orchestra cannot increase its endowment.
Still, in the short-term, "we're performing, broadcasting, we're being an orchestra," he said.
"We still have an enormous amount of work to do," Hogle said. "But the business of performing and attracting talent here is in fact returning and vibrant."
He cited the hiring of seven musicians, including incoming concertmaster Yoonshin Song. The orchestra announced this week that the 30-year-old member of the Saint Paul Chamber Ensemble would permanently replace Emmanuelle Boisvert, who left after the strike to become associate concertmaster with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Several of the recent departures can be traced to the contentious walkout or settlement that left musicians with a roughly 25 percent cut to their salaries. Hogle said the hiring process is restoring the faith across the organization.
"As a result of the auditions we've already had this year, it certainly suggests that Detroit and the music-making legacy here continues to be attractive for candidates," he said. "That bodes very well for our future."
Hogle said he's also excited that more than 100,000 people have tuned in to the orchestra's webcasts this past season. Much closer to home, the orchestra has inaugurated concerts in a half-dozen Detroit-area neighborhoods — drawing a suburban audience largely composed of audience members who haven't attended a performance in Detroit.