2019 | Entertainment & Events

Strathmore CEO Hopes To Fill Performance Vacancies Left Amid National Philharmonic Closure

Philharmonic accounts for about 4% of Strathmore revenue

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Monica Jeffries Hazangeles

Photo via Strathmore

Strathmore’s chief executive officer says there will be a noticeable but not substantial impact on the concert hall’s budget after the National Philharmonic closes, and she hopes to fill performance vacancies left by the orchestra’s closure.

National Philharmonic, the largest Montgomery County-based presenter of classical music concerts, has been a resident at Strathmore since 2005, performing more than 250 times. After more than five years of financial woes, the orchestra announced this week it will cease operations, leaving 130 musicians and staff without jobs.

Revenue from the group accounts for about 4% of Strathmore’s earned revenue, Strathmore President and CEO Monica Jeffries Hazangeles told Bethesda Beat Wednesday. She declined to disclose how much money, if any, National Philharmonic owes Strathmore.

National Philharmonic made payments to Strathmore for use of the concert hall, office space and rehearsal space, Jeffries Hazangeles said.

“We’ve had a philosophy since the beginning of the Music Center that we wanted to be a multi-legged stool, and that’s why we have multiple partners here,” Jeffries Hazangeles said. “So, for Strathmore’s operating model, if any of those partners were to falter in any way or, God forbid, have to close, there are other stable partners here. We’re not solely reliant on any one source of income.”

The concert hall hosts about 160 performances each year.

Jeffries Hazangeles said National Philharmonic’s closure was “not a surprise,” as Strathmore has been “doing all it can” to help ease the orchestra’s financial burden for several years, but that Strathmore officials are sad Philharmonic is unable to continue operations.

“Our little ecosystem here at Strathmore will certainly miss them, and to the extent we can we’ll assist the musicians who are impacted by this,” Jeffries Hazangeles said.

In a statement Tuesday, National Philharmonic President Leanne Ferfolia attributed much of the orchestra’s budget issues to construction at Strathmore and the 35-day federal government shutdown earlier this year. Both events led to a decline in ticket sales, she said.

She also chastised the county government for not supporting National Philharmonic’s request for $150,000 in additional funding. Ferfolia said she was “disappointed that the County Council doesn’t value the Philharmonic as its own professional community orchestra and chorale for the citizens of Montgomery County.”

County Council President Nancy Navarro pushed back in a separate statement, saying the local government has given National Philharmonic more than $2.5 million in recent years, an effort that “isn’t sustainable … over the long term.”

County Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement Wednesday “despite our collective efforts, we were not able to find a solution that would enable National Philharmonic to continue,” but did not respond to questions asking for clarification about why a resolution could not be reached.

National Philharmonic had 14 performances scheduled at Strathmore for its upcoming concert season, most on Saturday nights.

Strathmore does not have any groups “waiting in the wings” to fill those now-vacant performance slots, but Jeffries Hazangeles said she is confident replacement performances will be booked.

“We’ve got other partners and potential users that might be interested,” Jeffries Hazangeles said. “I think it will take some time to fully replace all of them, but it’s not as if we have folks lined up … We’ve been very devoted partners and didn’t want to act prematurely in any way.”

While National Philharmonic’s closure has reignited conversations in the community that classical music is “dying,” Jeffries Hazangeles said she “emphatically disagrees.

“I think that we’re required as arts organizations to respond to our environments and our communities in really dynamic ways,” Jeffries Hazangeles said. “If we’re doing that, we can hopefully be here for the long haul.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com