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O.C. Symphony Asks Garden Grove for $20,000 Bailout : Funding: The orchestra needs to pay its union musicians back wages, or they won't be able to play in the coming season.


GARDEN GROVE — The financially struggling Orange County Symphony of Garden Grove on Tuesday asked the City Council for a $20,000 bailout so that it can pay back wages to its union musicians.

Without the money, the musicians will not be allowed to play during the coming concert season, putting the future of the 8-year-old orchestra itself in question.

The council took no vote on the request, but members said they were sympathetic and directed city attorneys to explore whether it would be legal to tap into redevelopment funds to rescue the orchestra.

The city also has an arts fund, financed through development fees, to support arts activities in the city, but the fund holds around $6,000. Because that amount is insufficient for its needs, orchestra officials asked the city for another solution.

Mayor Frank Kessler, who said the orchestra "will either close down totally or hopefully find ways to pay union back wages," said he hopes the city manager will have the answer to the question of dipping into redevelopment fees by the council's next meeting Sept. 7.

Compounding the orchestra's problems, if it does not pay its musicians in time to play an annual children's concert in November, it stands to lose free use of the 1,500-seat Don Wash Auditorium at Garden Grove High School, the home of its regular-season concerts. Under terms of a contract with the Garden Grove Unified School District, the orchestra pays no rent for the hall in exchange for playing the children's concert.

Music director Edward Peterson said Wednesday that the orchestra was forced to cancel its February concert because of debts accrued last year to about 70 members of the Orange County Musicians' Assn., Local 7 of the American Federation of Musicians.

Peterson said the orchestra's board had hoped a fund-raising concert in December would pay off the debt, but it raised only about $5,000.

Peterson, the orchestra's conductor, said the board is planning a major fund-raising and telemarketing drive.

He said that economic hard times have hurt contributions. Admission to performances pays only about 30% of the orchestra's operating costs, which total about $300,000 a year, he said. Orchestra board president Lorraine Reafsnyder also asked the council for free office space that would save the orchestra about $10,000 a year in rent.

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