Founder Jonathan Sheffer Details Eos Orchestra's End

Classic Arts News   Founder Jonathan Sheffer Details Eos Orchestra's End
In an essay published last week on the web site, Jonathan Sheffer gives an extended explanation of the sudden demise in December 2004 of Eos Orchestra, the innovative ensemble he founded in 1995.

When Eos announced that it was shutting down, a representative explained in a statement that the group had "successfully conclude[d] its mission." Later, Sheffer told the New York Times that fiscal problems were the main cause of the group's demise; then he said in an interview with that differences between orchestra management and newly unionized musicians were the final blow.

In his essay, Sheffer elaborates on those factors and adds others.

He acknowledges that in the early years of Eos he was a major funder of the group. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the economic downturn that followed, he "made the decision that I must diminish my unusual role as a supporter of Eos, for personal, financial, and organizational reasons." In the three years that followed, he writes, the group attempted to cut costs and increase fundraising but was unable to regain its financial equilibrium.

He also discusses the dispute with the union, arguing that ultimately the musicians' need to increase their job security and his own desire for "a higher standard" could not be reconciled. "I don't wish to criticize the union," he writes. "They generally ennoble and protect the lives and livelihoods of musicians, which is to me a nearly sacred cause.... But I don't think the process worked in this case, for either side."

Finally, Sheffer writes, he was frustrated with the public perception of the group, especially in the press. Although Eos's unusual programming and formats drew attention, Sheffer's larger mission, to address "the survival and relevance of concerts and live performance," was often ignored.

Sheffer also explains that Eos shut down in mid-season, canceling scheduled performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and on tour, because "it was felt that an organization planning to close could not go out and solicit large donations in good conscience."

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