After seven seasons that brought warm critical response but failed to generate steady financial support, the Glendale Chamber Orchestra has bowed out.
The orchestra's board of directors voted unanimously this month to dissolve rather than risk the prospect of entering into unmanageable debt to fund a new season.
"It's all being closed out," board President Harvey G. Wolfe said. "All the records are completed. All the bills are being paid. We went out in the black, completely."
Wolfe said he requested that the board dissolve because "we will not go on something that is weak."
The orchestra's annual $70,000 budget was supported by ticket sales and small corporate donations, said its conductor, Christopher Fazzi, a songwriter and composer who lives in La Canada Flintridge.
"This was not an orchestra that had the luxury of having continuous corporate sponsors," Fazzi said. "We did not have major grants. It was a patchwork quilt of donations, local people, businesses, different levels."
But support for a new season appeared to be eroding.
"A lot of our grants that we were very much looking forward to did not come through," Fazzi said. "A lot of funding for the arts has been drying up."
Under Fazzi's direction since its inception in 1982, the all-professional orchestra had given three to six concerts annually in the Glendale High School auditorium.
In recent years, Fazzi had shifted toward a format of fewer concerts with larger ensembles to take on tougher pieces of Beethoven and Stravinsky.
The effort earned respect from reviewers who called the group a "courageous band" and found in Fazzi "a precise and informed conductor" whose "resourcefulness often steers his charges through rough waters."
Fazzi's appeal did not work the same magic on the audience in Glendale, which also supports a symphony orchestra that performs in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles and receives major corporate sponsorship.
In spite of the distribution of free tickets to thousands of students, Fazzi said, the Chamber Orchestra's following leveled off at about 600 per concert, a figure far too low to sustain the ensemble.
"We would have needed a couple hundred thousand dollar budget and an audience of well over 1,000 people for every concert to even make it worthwhile to go on. The audience response was just not coming up. It got to a point that the orchestra felt we did a great deal for the community. We wanted to go out completely free of debt."
Three weeks after the final concert of the 1988-89 season, Wolfe called an April 4 board meeting to request the dissolution.
"It was with extreme regret that I had to rap the gavel down and call it a finale," Wolfe said. "We wanted to go out in a blaze of glory because our last concert was very good."