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Bushnell, Hartford Symphony Enter New Partnership

Niels van Eck
Creative Commons

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra has entered into a major partnership with the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts. It is called a "management services contractm" and it ushers in a new era for the HSO.

"Ever since I've been in the orchestra, it's been touch and go financially. Going it alone didn't look like it would be stable for us in the future."
Greig Shearer

According to the contract, the administrative structure of the Symphony will be absorbed into the Bushnell's. At this point it is unclear exactly how many jobs will be lost, but it was announced Wednesday that the HSO's president and CEO Carrie Hammond will step down next week when the contract officially starts. David Fay, the CEO of the Bushnell, will oversee both organizations. The HSO offices will move to the Bushnell.

Talks of partnering with the Bushnell have been going on for seven years, according to James Remis, chair of the board of directors for the HSO. He said the administrative restructure will change nothing about the orchestra. "The HSO stays in business," he said, "the HSO board retains all of its fiduciary responsibilities. The HSO board employs the music director and the musicians, and the HSO staff are employees of the HSO, the HSO committee structure stays in place, and so forth."

Remis said the HSO will continue to present the very popular Talcott Mountain Music Festival, and the other subscription series the orchestra currently offers.

What will change with this partnership is the HSO's financial outlook. Greig Shearer, principal flute for the HSO, said this move could save the HSO, which has struggled financially in recent years. "It's frustrating," he said. "Ever since I've been in the orchestra, it's been touch and go financially. Going it alone didn't look like it would be stable for us in the future. I think it is a good move."

Hartford Symphony Orchestra music director Carolyn Kuan.
Credit Hartford Symphony Orchestra
Hartford Symphony Orchestra
Hartford Symphony Orchestra music director Carolyn Kuan.

The Bushnell's David Fay agrees. He said the deal is merely is an extension of existing synergy between the HSO and the Bushnell. "The overlap that takes place in a lot of our activities are much easier for us to look at providing for a company like the HSO," he said. "It's a win-win. It puts us in even a closer working relationship to try to support Carolyn's vision for the classical arts and classical music here in our community."

It is HSO music director Carolyn Kuan's vision for the future of the orchestra that has been a major catalyst for this partnership.

Greig Shearer said that could include collaborations with ballet and opera companies -- endeavors that will require more staff and resources than the HSO has on its own. "The idea is to strengthen both our financial situation," he said, "and give us the depth of staffing to be able to try larger projects, do things that should excite people, and bring in new audiences."

The contract that was approved Wednesday by the Bushnell's board of directors officially launches next week. The HSO board signed off on the deal earlier this month.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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