Do the Oboes Have Hutchison's Back?

So far, Seattle Symphony players have been quiet about the political ambitions of the head of the SSO’s board.

As reporters who've covered the years-long turmoil at the Seattle Symphony Orchestra well know, SSO musicians are generally not shy about speaking their minds to the press about management. Which makes it all the more remarkable that we've heard pretty much nothing from them about Susan Hutchison. Hutchison, of course, was chair of the SSO's Board of Directors until last month. [This story has been corrected since it was first posted. It originally described Hutchison as the current board chair.] Which means SSO players are perhaps in the best position to opine about her purported ability to "bring people together to solve complex issues," as she puts it. But they've remained mum so far. It may be no coincidence that sensitive contract negotiations between the musicians and management have been going on at the same time. Well, now it looks as if contract negotiations will effectively continue until after the November 3 election. The SSO and its players announced last week that the collective bargaining agreement scheduled to expire on August 31 has been extended until the end of the year. During that time, the two sides will continue to talk. (This is one complex issue that is apparently requiring more time to solve.) The musicians, meanwhile, have agreed to donate their services for this Saturday's 25th-anniversary concert for Music Director Gerard Schwarz. As for putting their money where their mouths aren't, the musicians aren't doing it. The latest donation figures show that only one person identified as working for the SSO has contributed to Hutchison's campaign for King County Executive: Schwarz himself. The money is flowing in the other direction, though, as the foundation that Hutchison oversees is kicking in $100,000 or so to the orchestra's end-of-fiscal-year fundraising campaign. SSO announced last week that it had successfully met an $850,000 challenge grant from an anonymous donor to help balance its books, and the "capping gift" was made by the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts & Sciences, of which Hutchison is executive director. Hutchison has made the Symphony's financial condition a campaign issue, since she points to a recent improvement in SSO's fortunes as evidence of her management prowess. The orchestra said it will release its preliminary budget figures for the 2008–09 season later this month.

 
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