Honolulu Symphony musicians speak out about funding issues

Steve Dinion
Steve Dinion

By Duane Shimogawa bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - It's the oldest american orchestra west of the Rocky Mountains, the Honolulu Symphony has changed with the times, but now this group has fallen on tough times.

For some, the music has taken a backstage to money this season.

The Honolulu Symphony hasn't paid its musicians of six weeks in back pay. On Saturday, for the first time, the musicians came forward and spoke to KHNL/K5 News about this tough situation.

Throughout its history, the Honolulu Symphony has established a legacy as one of Hawaii's great cultural, educational and entertainment resources.

"There's so many ways the symphony touches people's lives in Hawaii, the symphony musicians teach over 900 students privately, we're the main coaches for the kids who play in the youth symphony," Tympanist Steve Dinion said.

For years, Dinion has enjoyed just playing a part in the symphony. But with funding falling short, it's keeping their future out of focus.

"For all of us obviously it's been really difficult not having regular paychecks all the time, of course it's hard to pay bills, but both the musicians and the staff are really inspired by what we're doing here," he said.

Towards the end of last year, these musicians were told they weren't getting paid for six weeks because of funding issues.

"We were very concerned, this is a scary time in general for lots of people having hard times right now, but we appreciate the fact there was open communication," Dinion said.

Some musicians have left, while the majority of them are hoping Saturday night's Ports of Call Ball will strike a chord with its audience.

As the Honolulu Symphony gears up for Saturday night's performance, they're not only hoping to raise more funds to keep them going, they're also hoping to raise their morale as well.

"For me, there's nothing more powerful than getting to play with a group of incredibly talented professionals and to share that music with our audience, it's just the most fulfilling thing I can imagine," Dinion said.

The musicians have been told they'll eventually get the six weeks in back pay when more cash starts to come in. Ticket sales make up 35-percent of their budget. The rest comes from fundraisers, like Saturday night's one. The musicians say they've sold nearly 600 tickets for the event, which is a good sign that things are about to turn around.