Everett Symphony musicians form own orchestra

Members of the now idle Everett Symphony Orchestra are vowing to keep classical music alive in Snohomish County.

To do that, they have founded a new organization, the Everett Philharmonic Orchestra.

Though it has no money and no place to play, this new philharmonic will have the powerhouse team of conductor Paul-Elliott Cobbs, who will lead the group as maestro and music director, and his wife, Loma Cobbs, who will become the new organization’s executive director.

The new Everett Philharmonic has the support of the community, said cello player and operations manager Cami Davis.

“The last concert was a clear message to us that we don’t have to look any further than those 1,500 people,” Davis said Friday.

The idle Everett Symphony Orchestra cut its season short and played its final concert Jan. 29 with no firm plans for future classical performances.

The Everett Symphony board blamed the stagnant economy coupled with years of poor financial planning as the reason for aborting its season and terminating the contracts of all the musicians, along with the contract for longtime and much beloved music director Paul-Elliott Cobbs.

Forming the new Everett Philharmonic was the answer for many orchestra members who wanted to continue to play music under Cobbs.

“We didn’t want the audience to get out of the habit of attending concerts. When they do that, they will find another place to go,” Davis said. “The music must not die.”

Loma Cobbs agreed.

“Every minute they don’t play, their skills will be diminished,” Loma Cobbs said.

Loma Cobbs brings to the new philharmonic organization her 17 years as executive director for the Tacoma Youth Symphony which is in its 47th year and has an annual budget of $600,000.

She also said jokingly that she brings an ability to work with her husband, who also serves as the Tacoma Youth Symphony’s conductor.

As of Friday, the new Everett Philharmonic had 41 musicians, all from the Everett Symphony Orchestra. Loma Cobbs believes most of the 70 musicians who play with the ESO will eventually play with the Everett Philharmonic.

“Absolutely musicians want to play music. That’s the bottom line,” Loma Cobbs said.

The new Everett Philharmonic will have a 10-person board of directors and is working on establishing nonprofit status.

The group is looking for a venue to play a spring gala to kick off the new organization. It has a Web site at www.everettphil.org.

Though the philharmonic doesn’t have the financial cushion of a $500,000 endowment like the Everett Symphony Orchestra has, Loma Cobbs said she is confident the group will find support.

“We’re starting out at zero, but we have no overhead so the liability and the assets balance themselves,” Cobbs said. “Our greatest asset is the people behind the scenes and sitting in the audience. We’re not losing anything without the endowment.”

Everett Symphony Orchestra’s chief executive officer, Roger Pawley, said Friday that he views the musicians’ new philharmonic positively.

“Our position is that musicians need to perform and, during our hiatus, this might be a good short-term solution for that,” Pawley said.

He added that the Everett Symphony is working on a long-term solution with its community advisory council, which has 30 members and is led by Bob Drewel, former Snohomish County executive.

“The Everett Symphony board is committed to finding a sustainable business model,” Pawley said.

In addition to ending the season early to save money, the Everett Symphony also sold its 6,600-square-foot art-deco style rehearsal hall and offices at 2710 Colby Ave. in Everett and moved its offices to the Everett Mall.

For members of the new Everett Philharmonic Orchestra, a clean slate brings with it a lot of promise.

“The orchestra is excited to be reunited with Paul,” Cami Davis said. “We’re looking forward to making music for the community.”

Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; goffredo@heraldnet.com.

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