Letter from Steven Wagner

Greetings to the members of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra:

Thank you for your past and future service to the people of Southeast Michigan while on the board of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  I know that most of you, in addition to your work on the board have contributed generously and regularly to the DSO, and for that I thank you.

As significant donors to the DSO, how do you feel about the current management’s cavalier attitude toward one of their primary goals, fundraising?

Are you not concerned that the donor base today is 20% of what it was 15 years ago.  20%!  That means that 80% of the people who used to give to the DSO no longer give.  Why do you suppose that is?  I have a guess:   I think it has been easier for management to get large amounts of money from people like YOU, rather than getting smaller amounts of money from a large group of people.   How does that make you feel?  I would think it would make you feel that you have been taken advantage of.

Along the same lines, are you not disturbed that there have been 4 heads of development in 5 years?  This fact alone should send up warning flags.  The job of the development committee is to build relationships with people of means, and encourage them to give to the organization.  How effective can the development committee be if every year there is a new face at the helm, every year there is a new person seeking to build a meaningful relationship with the donors?

I have heard from a number of mid level donors over the last few months that the DSO has simply stopped asking them for a donation.  These are people who have been giving consistently over the years.  Why has the DSO stopped reaching out to them?  How much money has management lost by this breach of their duty?  How much of that money could be regained if the DSO simply started reaching out to their old donors?

Ann Parsons told a friend of mine to his face, at the general meeting, that she would not read the letter that he sent to her.  Is that a way to treat a donor?  She also walked out of the general meeting as another friend rose to address the audience.  This person has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the DSO, going back much further than Anne Parsons’ tenure as CEO.  How dare Anne walk out on her!  Such arrogance!  Remember, Anne Parsons works for YOU, and by allowing her to act in such a way you are showing your approval of her actions.

On the subject of Anne Parsons and the staff at the MAX, doesn’t it concern you that they are continuing to draw a full salary while there is no Orchestra to manage and no concerts to promote?  Ms Parsons has said in the media that business continues as usual at the hall, but that is such a stupid comment I have difficulty even commenting on it.  The business of the hall is to present concerts by the musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  Everything else is secondary.

It has been reported that Paul Hogle has said he could pay his staff for two years if the musicians stayed on strike for that long!  Is that how you want the money you have so generously given to the DSO to be spent?  Is that what the endowment is intended for?

In closing, I ask you to consider my comments and if you feel they have merit, ask the executive board and management for an explanation.  Then I would ask you to share that explanation with the people of Southeast Michigan, the people to whom the Detroit Symphony Orchestra truly belongs.


Steven Wagner, Southfield


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