Bruce Coppock consults for Detroit Symphony

Can the former head of the SPCO save a dying symphony?

For over two months now the musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have been on strike because, according to the musicians, they “and their many supporters have a starkly different vision of the orchestra’s future from the DSO’s Board of Directors and management.”

DSO management has proposed salary reductions of 30 percent for existing players and 40 percent for new hires. Musicians say such cuts would hurt the symphony’s ability to attract and retain talent. Meanwhile DSO management argues the quality of its talent will hardly matter if it’s forced to fold.

In order to come up with some creative solutions that can appeal to both musicians and management, the orchestra has hired on Bruce Coppock as a consultant. Coppock oversaw dramatic changes at the SPCO while president, including eliminating the position of Music Director (that role is now taken on by a series of artistic partners). Coppock also served as executive director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra during Leonard Slatkin’s tenure there as Music Director (Slatkin is now Music Director of the DSO).

But orchestra business writer Drew McManus questions whether Coppock will have much good advice to share. On his blog Adaptistration he writes:

…the DSO has hired Bruce Coppock as a consultant although what he’s doing with the organization beyond his meeting presentation is not clear… What is known is that the far-reaching changes Coppock put into place at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra during his time there as the president and managing director don’t seem to be helping that organization fare any better than their peers. Over the past decade, the organization has had endured numerous staff cuts and musician base pay has been cut three times, the most recent of which was in 2009. Whether or not this was taken into account by the DSO when deciding to hire Coppock is unknown.

Coppock stepped down from his position at the SPCO in July of 2008 for health reasons.

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