Budget cuts move CSUN ensembles off campus

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The CSUN Symphony Orchestra is one of several ensembles in the Music Department that will perform off campus this year because of ongoing state budget cuts and scheduling conflicts between professors and Performing Arts Center and college officials.

After searching for an outside venue, John Roscingo, music professor and conductor of the Symphony Orchestra, scheduled his orchestra to perform in Spring 2006 at the Madrid Theatre in Canoga Park, a reservation that was later canceled.

“I had to go outside campus and pay from our own budget to pay for outside venue,” he said.

Roscingo said that each conductor is given specific funds allocated to purchase music, tour with an orchestra or hire guest performers, among other things. He said the money is not supposed to be used for renting performance halls, which he did when he booked the Madrid for his Symphony Orchestra because the PAC could not schedule four performances.

Roscingo said the PAC costs $1,500 to rent. The Madrid costs $1,900.

“It gets worse every year because of the budget cuts, (which gives us) less dates,” Roscingo said. He said performing off campus would, however, get a larger community audience, which is a good thing, as he likes the idea of the students getting more exposure.

“I think it’s great to take groups off campus, but it’s extremely hard to pay for rental costs,” Roscingo said.

Harold Hellenbrand, vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, said each academic college received budget cuts as part of the university’s plan to phase in a $11-12 million cut from a base budget of around $118 million over three years. The heaviest cuts were scheduled to come in this the second year of the three-year plan.

“Everybody had to lose something,” Hellenbrand said. “Most departments are being effected in similar ways.”

He said people are finding that they have less funding available for operating expenses and maintaining class sizes throughout the university.

He said the PAC serves three basic functions: to book outside projects to bring in community profits, provide a venue for CSUN performance acts, and work with Associated Students to provide a performance space for student programs.

According to Hellenbrand, it is because of the PAC’s three functions that there are scheduling conflicts for the Music Department’s ensembles.

“Sometimes you find a collision for dates,” he said. “Balancing the schedule for the PAC is complex.”

“(PAC director William Martin) has a hard job to do because if he doesn’t book outside (projects), he doesn’t make profit in that house,” Hellenbrand said. “He’s trying to balance dates his artists want,” which often include the same Friday or Saturday nights.

An orchestra needs about 20 hours of rehearsal time to put on a performance, and that the dates given to the conductors have to coincide with the rehearsal requirements, Roscingo said. He said the dates the PAC made available do not always coincide with the rehearsal-time needs.

“We support (the students),” Hellenbrand said. “I would like to tell you it would be a Utopia, where we could do both things and provide (funds), but the world just doesn’t work like that. Some years it works better than others.”

William Toutant, dean of the College of Arts, Media, and Communication, said the college could usually pay for 20 performances at the PAC, but due to the budget cuts, that number has been reduced to 16, so four performances have to be held off campus this year.

The College of AMC experienced a $493,000 budget cut this year, Toutant said.

“Sometimes ensembles insist on performing on a certain date,” Toutant said. “We may hold that slot for artists we want to perform on that date.”

He said the ensemble directors are given a list of dates of when the PAC is available. Roscingo said the conductors are told how many dates they can have for the year, and that the conductors get together with calendars and select their dates.

“We have less dates to choose from this year than before,” Roscingo said. “That’s a budget problem. It was determined that some of us (had) to perform elsewhere.”

Matt Harris, co-conductor of the Jazz “A” band, said he feels there is a communication problem between the Music Department and the PAC and that the scheduling of the ensembles in the venue is unprofessional. Harris’ Jazz “A” band will also be performing off campus this year for the same budgetary and scheduling reasons.

“My perception is that … the PAC is trying to make money, which is fine,” he said. “But that’s not good for the Music Department in educating students. It’s not about making money.”

The PAC has to book its outside projects first because profit is needed in order to cover the expenses of the PAC, Toutant said.

William Martin, the director of the PAC, sends the schedules for the conductors to choose their performance dates, but declined to comment regarding scheduling or the budget.

The university told Roscingo to once again look for another venue to perform at, due to a potential conflict of interest, as the venue he selected, the Madrid, is connected with the Valley Cultural Center, an organization competing against CSUN in its effort to build a new, $100-million Valley Performing Arts Center adjacent to Cypress Hall.

The Madrid Theatre is operated by the Valley Cultural Center, which was founded in 1975 to assist the Los Angeles City Department of Recreation and Parks to bring arts to San Fernando Valley residents.

Steve Goldstein, president of Valley Alliance Center, a subgroup of the VCC, said a new Valley Alliance for the Arts was formed as an outgrowth of the VCC to expand and bring more arts and performances to the Valley by building a new large-scale venue.

Goldstein said the VCC is in the planning process of a $100-million new performing arts center, which will be built somewhere in the West San Fernando Valley.

“We’ve developed our fundraising strategy now,” Goldstein said.

CSUN is working on its own PAC project, with a massive university push for securing funds from private donors and companies.

“(The new PAC) will serve both the campus and the community with a world-class performance venue, where we can bring major artists (and) ensembles (to CSUN),” Toutant said.

Goldstein said he was confident both projects could be built and succeed in the Valley.

“I think it’s feasible that both projects work,” he said. “Both will serve a different purpose.”

He also said that both parties could seek different fundraising sources.

“I hope that (CSUN) and Valley alliance can work cooperatively and have an open line of communication and share resources to be able to utilize characteristics of each center in a symbiotic way,” he said, adding that it is an ideal vision that both would be built.

“We have sought from the beginning to work with the VCC, but they wanted to work on their own,” Toutant said. “We wanted to work with them as a partner on the project. We wanted them to be involved in this project.”

Toutant said the university thought one project would be more successful than two.

“Our approach was let’s not compete, and (let’s) work together,” he said.

“That’s why we wanted to work with them and say let’s work together and not against each other,” Toutant said. “They weren’t interested, so let’s move forward.”

The university eventually asked Roscingo to change venues following the discovery by Toutant that the Madrid Theatre had been booked for a Spring 2006 show.

“(Our) main concern was to make that we would not be viewed as poaching or intruding our efforts elsewhere,” Hellenbrand said.

“We were concerned that this (type) of program in the Music Department could be read as either that there is some future collaboration, or that we were trying to use it with what is going on (with the VCC),” Hellenbrand said. “Either way, it would be a false conclus
ion.”

The Symphony Orchestra was asked to relocate from the Madrid to a new venue “so nothing could be read incorrectly,” Hellenbrand said.

Because the Symphony Orchestra is not going to play at the Madrid and canceled, their rental deposit fee of $950 has been lost.

“(We) wanted to make sure the situation is not read as an entanglement,” Hellenbrand said. “If we venture over there right now, given the sensitiveness – (it) could be read as a sort of endorsement of partnership.”

Hellenbrand said Academic Affairs supports the Symphony Orchestra and compensated for the loss of their deposit and will pay for their next performance at another venue from their contingency budget.

“We have a contingency budget aside for – emergencies,” he said. “Over the course of a year, we spend $100,000 for unforeseen expenses.”

The Symphony Orchestra is still looking for a new venue and may be looking to schedule their performance at the Glendale Alex Theatre, which will cost several thousand dollars more rent.

Hellenbrand said he would schedule a meeting in January 2006 between he, the ensemble directors, the PAC director and Toutant to try to improve scheduling access to the venue.

Mona Karaguozian can be reached at ane@sundial.csun.edu.