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Long Island Philharmonic shuts down

The Long Island Philharmonic, with conductor David Stewart

The Long Island Philharmonic, with conductor David Stewart Wiley, announced Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, that it will shut down immediately. Credit: Bruce Gilbert

The Long Island Philharmonic, one of the Island’s longest continuously operated performing arts institutions, announced Monday that it will close effective immediately.

“This is a tragedy for all of Long Island,” Larry Austin, Philharmonic chairman, said in a statement announcing the board’s decision to cease operations after 36 years. “We did everything we could to keep the music playing, but these are tough times for arts organizations everywhere.”

The Philharmonic, co-founded by Harry Chapin, suspended its subscription concert season more than five years ago due to financial shortfalls. It shut down after a failure to reach an agreement to renegotiate terms of a loan that would allow the Philharmonic to continue paying its freelance musicians and skeleton staff. As a result, there will be no in-school programs — serving thousands of students, often in underserved districts in terms of classical music training — with Philharmonic musicians this spring, and no free concerts this summer in parks across Long Island.

“The Philharmonic has enjoyed the support of hundreds of Long Island corporations, including a number of banks that over the years saw it as a valuable civic institution,” said John Russell, president and founding member of the Philharmonic board. “These businesses,” he added, “recognized that the support of the Long Island Philharmonic was an investment in the quality of life on Long Island which helped them recruit and retain a quality workforce.”

David Stewart Wiley, music director of the Philharmonic for 15 years, said Monday from his Virginia home, “I’m terribly sorry to see another arts organization shut its doors since 9/11,” citing, for instance, the 2012 demise of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. “I’m really grateful that we were able to keep it going this long.”

Wiley added that he and some Long Island Philharmonic musicians, with the help of Nassau BOCES, plan to continue working “on a freelance basis” with music students in school districts the Philharmonic had committed to serving this spring. “These kids deserve our support,” he said.

In 2007, the Philharmonic received a line of credit from the State Bank of Long Island, which New Jersey-based Valley National Bank acquired as a result of a merger with the Island-based bank in 2012. According to a spokesman for the Philharmonic, Valley National rejected its proposal to restructure the loan after its failure to make a loan payment in May. “We needed more help and cooperation from Valley National than they were willing to provide,’ ” Austin said.

Attempts to reach Valley National on Monday went unanswered.

Elliot Sroka, executive director emeritus of Tilles Center, the Philharmonic’s home for decades and site of its last concert on New Year’s Eve, said: “It’s a tremendous loss for the community. The Philharmonic was founded as a way to show that a regional orchestra can be as good as any other from outside — and for years it was. The standards remained high, despite the cutbacks in concerts.”

Alan Inkles, executive director of Staller Center at Stony Brook University, which hosted Philharmonic concerts for several years before it pulled back from subscription seasons called it “a reminder that without corporate support and other private donations, we’re all in danger of going under in the arts.”

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