Sunday, May 27, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 12

Santa Maria Sun / Music

The following article was posted on May 8th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 9 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 9

Shuttered symphony

The Santa Maria Philharmonic Society cancels its upcoming season in the face of a nonexistent budget


Quality doesn’t come cheap. The axiom hit close to home for the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society, which, due to a lack of budget and return revenues from concerts, has been forced to cease its services—as in, it can no longer provide top-notch classical music performances to the Santa Maria Valley.

The decision was made at the most recent society board of directors meeting, because members couldn’t justify scheduling a performance they were unsure they could pay for. The now-canceled upcoming season included a “Pops in the Vineyard” concert at the end of June.

The Santa Maria Philharmonic Society Board of Directors, after reviewing the nonprofit’s finances, determined that they have to disband to symphony and the society.

“We can’t do that to our musicians; we can’t do that to our patrons,” said George Majoue, executive director of the society. “We’ve already lost membership and season subscription sales due to canceling concerts and downsizing the program because of cost.”

The society was in dire financial straits a couple of years ago, but rescue came in the form of an anonymous donation of a quarter million dollars. Unfortunately, due to lack of patronage and concert attendance, the society has spent the entire bequest on concerts over the last few years.

“When you have to spend $25,000 to $30,000 a concert, it’s got to come from somewhere when you don’t have donations, and it came from that bequest,” Majoue said. “So putting on those concerts, it just ate up that bequest.”

While $25,000 to $30,000 spent per concert may sound alarmingly high, remember that while the society is a nonprofit, it isn’t a volunteer organization. Every musician in the ensemble—which can be huge, depending on the literature being performed—is paid a professional wage, including travel expenses.

“We have to pay for the conductor, his lodging, the special guest soloists, all the musicians, the stage manager,” Majoue said. “We have to print a program. All that adds up. People have come to expect our concert season as high caliber, and you can’t have a top-notch season program without paying for it.”

Much of the philharmonic’s woes are due to just plain numbers. The symphony usually performs at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Maria, which seats up to 600, but the last two seasons have brought in maybe 350 people per concert. This puts the nonprofit at a loss for every single performance.

“It’s not just us; everybody is having trouble filling houses,” Majoue said. “A lot of people who had money in the stock market lost money, and they are very unsure, so they are reticent on spending money on luxury things.”

This isn’t the first time Santa Maria’s classical music ensemble has gone under. Formerly known as the Santa Maria Symphony, which went bankrupt in 1999, the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society began in March 2000. Even then, the society was funded by the generosity of a few benefactors.

“Their wherewithal really brought things to fruition for us,” Majoue said. “But, you can’t argue with someone who doesn’t want to spend money on you. When they left the organization, it made it very difficult to cope with that.”

Every year since the stock market crash in 2008, the society has seen membership and patronage steadily decline, Majoue said. Classical music societies, more so than other performing ensembles, depend on patronage due to the high cost of the talent and number of musicians involved.

“It would be very sad for this city to lose a classical organization like ours,” Majoue said. “We have had classical music here ever since 1925 when Capt. Allan Hancock started the salon house concerts, and he presented the first Santa Maria Concert Band in the Ethel Pope Auditorium.”

The Santa Maria Philharmonic Society is willing to continue if it receives some serious financial support—and fast. To make the previously planned season viable, the society needs to receive more than $100,000.

“We have a large library of music, of which our program next year utilizes much of the music in the library,” Majoue said, “but if we don’t get the money, we have to start liquidating the property we do have, which is mostly the music.”


Vocal masters

The Lompoc Valley Master Chorale, under the direction of Kathleen Abrams Hacker, presents “A Springtime Journey” on May 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 925 North F St., Lompoc. Cost is $15, $10 for students. More info: 588-7204,, or


Move to the mariachi

The 510 Event Center presents “Mariachi Night,” a free event on May 10 featuring dinner at 8 p.m. and live Mariachi music at 9 p.m. at the center at 510 South Broadway in Santa Maria. More info: 928-5510,, or


Mother’s love

A “Mother’s Love Dinner Show” and fundraiser event features live music by American songbook singer Dennis Headrick, Americana and classic country singer George Stillman, and cabaret singer Maggie Worsdale on May 11 at 5:30 p.m. at La Purisima Hall, 213 W. Olive Ave., Lompoc. Cost is $35. More info: 736-4567, Ext. 223.


See the songstress

Amy Obenski will be performing her original folk-jazz music, including songs from her new album “Grew to Catch the Wind” on May 11 at 7 p.m. at the D’Vine Wine Bar, 107 West Ocean Ave., Lompoc. Free. More info: 735-8771,, or


Live at Shaws

Shaw’s Tavern plays host to local groups Bloom and Embark and the Jimmy Riggs Band on May 11 at 9 p.m. at Shaw’s, 714 S. Broadway, Santa Maria. More info: 925-5862.


 Poets of word and tone

Lucia’s Wine Co. offers an open mic featuring wine, poetry, and live music on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. at the tasting room, 126 East Clark Ave., Orcutt. More info: 332-3080.


‘Wine down’ at Addamo

The Addamo Tasting Room and Bistro presents “Wine Down Wednesdays” featuring live music on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Addamo Tasting Room and Bistro, 400 E. Clark, Old Orcutt. Free. More info: 937-6400 or


Maverick music

The Maverick Saloon offers live entertainment, including a special live concert with the Wil Ridge Band on May 9 at 9 p.m. Live country by the Jimi Nelson Band is on May 10 at 8:45 p.m., followed by “Late Night with guest DJs” at 11:30 p.m. “Concert on the Deck” featuring Jimi and friends is May 11 at 3 p.m. High Voltage performs a special AC/DC tribute concert on May 11 at 8:45 p.m., followed by “Late Night with guest DJs” at 11:30 p.m. at the saloon, 3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez. More info: 686-4785 or


Contact Arts Editor Joe Payne at

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