ast month the boards of the Sacramento Opera and Sacramento Philharmonic made a unanimous decision to merge as a new corporate entity — The Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance — producing Sacramento Opera and Sacramento Philharmonic performances and programs. Effective date for the new corporation is July 1, 2013.
Informal discussion between executive staff and the boards have been going on since 2010. In January 2012 the boards met jointly. The result of that meeting was a decision to formally consider a merger. A Strategic Alliance Task Force was created composed of members from each board and the two executive leaders. Through a grant from The James Irvine Foundation, La Piana Consulting was engaged to facilitate meetings of the task force. Those meetings began in July 2012.
Plans under the new merger include continued, expanded and responsive opera and symphonic programming for youth and adults, new community engagement and education initiatives, increased visibility for both opera and orchestral music, full integration of shared leadership, orchestra, chorus and venue, a capacity to offer more ticket purchasing options and flexibility, expansion and improvement of customer service, and expanded staffing adequate to carry out basic operational and mission-related needs.
Immediate goals and details
Immediate goals include successful completion of the 2012-13 opera and philharmonic seasons, which requires continued support from audiences and donors. Opera General Director Rod Gideons was frank. “We need to begin the new season and fiscal year without ‘baggage’ from past challenges.” Philharmonic Interim Executive Director Jane Hill concurs. “Thanks to loyal supporters and audience members, we can proudly say that neither organization has a current deficit or payables beyond 30 days. With diligent management and community support we can end fiscal year 2013 in the black — an important achievement for moving ahead with confidence.”
Many details of the new venture will be determined or confirmed over the next five months and will be determined by the integrated board. The public will be informed as decisions are finalized.
Recent years have seen the most significant shift in a century of how people experience, participate in and relate to the live performing arts. Both companies have experienced financial challenges, exacerbated by the economic recession in 2008 and continuing through the current season.
Societal and cultural evolution demands a change of direction. A new model is required to respond to changes in demographics, audience leisure activity tastes (influenced by lack of exposure to classical performing arts in schools), preferences in venues, interests in technical advances and a retreat to home-based electronic activities, rather than live performances.
By combining forces the opera and philharmonic believe they can address these important issues while serving community needs and interests.
Michael Morgan, who will provide continued leadership as artistic and music director, said, “I enthusiastically support the idea of merger. From an artistic standpoint I find the whole proposition thrilling and am grateful to both boards for making this decision, which has required diligence and patience on their parts. I know that efforts still lie ahead to develop a sustainable company, one that can be responsive to community needs and the many cultural and societal changes impacting us all. I intend to be highly visible with the public and civic leaders as an advocate for this innovative model.”
As part of the Jan. 22 agenda, new officers were elected to serve through June 30, 2013. They are Michael Nelson, president; David Nystrom, vice president; Sue Miller, secretary; David Motes, treasurer. Additional members of the executive committee are Susan Carson, Tony Garcia and Jeff Bedell.