In addition to Barast’s layoff, senior staff and music director Arie Lipsky took pay cuts, and musicians agreed to forgo a scheduled pay increase—a painful concession from players already paid less than musicians in comparable orchestras in Flint and Toledo.
Steffek Blaske herself has taken over fund-raising. “It’s what I started doing here, and I love doing it,” she says in a hoarse voice that testifies to long hours spent talking up the symphony’s importance to education and to the quality of civic life. A bloody but unbowed optimist, Steffek Blaske hopes that “five years from now, we’ll all be saying ‘Can you believe what we’ve lived through?’”
Guy Barast finds it harder to be optimistic. He says he’s “got good leads, thanks to friends on the symphony board,” but so far, the resumes and applications he’s sent out have generated little response.
“When I heard Jenny G [Governor Granholm] is talking about eliminating funding for the arts,” Barast says, “it’s hard to think the bad times are going to end anytime soon.”
[Originally published in March, 2009.]