Until recently, there was uncertainty as to whether or not Cincinnati Ballet could continue to afford live music to accompany its performances.
As part of a recent groundbreaking $85 million dollar grant to the arts focused on music from longtime Cincinnati arts philanthropist Louise Nippert, beginning in the latter half of 2010, the Ballet will be generously funded to the tune of about $200,000 for three productions per ballet season with Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra accompaniment.
This is wonderful news for ballet fans, dancers and music lovers. To some members of the Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra, the wellregarded ensemble that has been conducted by Music Director Carmon DeLeone for years, the news was not so welcome.
It’s no secret that arts organizations are struggling in the current economic climate and live music for dance might seem like an obvious luxury to forego. Although its live music has been in jeopardy, Cincinnati Ballet doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of nearly all other ballet companies in their budget category that no longer feature live music.
“This (grant) is very special,” DeLeone says. “The gift has really made us stand out by comparison to other companies our size. I’m sure everyone is very jealous of the fact that we’ll be able to have live music played by the marvelous professional players of the Cincinnati Symphony.”
Principal Dancer and Northern Kentucky native Anthony Krutzkamp says live music is one of the reasons he chose to return to Cincinnati.
“There’s something about the nuances in the music that comes from the players. It almost feels like it plays out inside of you,” Krutzkamp says of the differences performing to live music makes.
“I feel alive and in the moment.
You don’t know what’s gonna happen out there because Carmon’s not a computer,” he explains. “I can look down with my face up and know where he’s at … it’s comforting. And he’s saved my butt a few times too!” Yet the Ballet isn’t out of the woods fundingwise for the balance of this season. Prior to the Nippert grant, they had established a special fundraising committee dedicated to the live music cause. The Ballet hopes to generate funds to secure live music for two of this season’s remaining productions: Cinderella and Mozart’s Requiem.
“I’m still concerned about this year,” DeLeone says. “I’m especially concerned because Prokofiev’s Cinderella is just about my favorite score to conduct. I would hate to be sitting in the audience listening to a recording of it instead of conducting a live orchestra. To me, that would just be a crime.”
Funds permitting, Cincinnati Ballet hopes CBO will play these shows.
With the Nippert grant next season, the CSO will become the Ballet’s orchestra once again after more than a decade of CBO partnership. However, the Ballet’s CEO/Artistic Director Victoria Morgan and DeLeone say there will probably still be some work for CBO, particularly for dates when the CSO won’t be available. Both also express regret about the loss of work for the CBO musicians.
DeLeone says, “It’s a difficult subject because I love that orchestra very, very much.
They have served the Ballet with great dedication over the years and I certainly hope that there will be some way in the future to continue to make use of their talents.”
Longtime CBO trombone player Glenn Proffit is less optimistic. “There’s a chance,” he says of CBO’s possibly playing Cinderella. “I’m very pessimistic. I don’t see them spending the money to do it.” Proffit says there’s no future for the CBO.
“You’re getting a smaller and smaller arts community in this town, with more and more money shoveled into fewer and fewer organizations,” he says.
Morgan stresses that if it comes down to hiring musicians or dancers, they must choose to hire dancers — and they have fewer dancers now than ever in her 10-plusyear tenure. She wishes she didn’t have to make some of the tough decisions she’s had to make with staffing and beyond, but that’s become life in the arts today.
DeLeone says the Ballet’s live music budget typically runs in excess of the grant’s amount.
“There still may be some money to raise,” he says, “but it’ll certainly be an easier path at this point.”