Losses for symphony sound a sour note for Everett

Thinking about the Everett Symphony Orchestra’s sad predicament, I hear music in my head. It’s not the sweet sound of classical strings. On my mind is Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.”

You know the song, the one about how “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” These are the lyrics — “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” — that accompany my thoughts about the beleaguered symphony.

Wednesday’s article by Herald arts writer Theresa Goffredo told troubling news. Except for tonight’s “American Idols” concert at 8 p.m. at the Everett Civic Auditorium, the financially strapped Everett Symphony has canceled the rest of its season. It has given up its downtown Everett headquarters for space at Everett Mall.

Sadder still, longtime Everett Symphony conductor and music director Paul-Elliott Cobbs is leaving the orchestra. Goffredo reported that declining ticket sales and donations forced the organization to cancel contracts for Cobbs and its musicians.

Here’s an admission that may ring a familiar bell with many around here. I love the notion of living in a place that has its own symphony orchestra. Yet in the nearly 30 years I’ve been in Everett, I haven’t supported the Everett Symphony. It’s a soul-searching week for this self-described arts lover.

I can’t count the number of Everett AquaSox games I’ve seen. We make it to Everett Silvertips games. Already, I’ve seen the Washington Stealth play lacrosse in the team’s first season in Everett. I go all over to see concerts. I saw Neil Young at Everett’s Comcast Arena, Bruce Springsteen at KeyArena in Seattle, and Lyle Lovett at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville.

In almost 30 years, I have seen the Everett Symphony only a few times. Twice, I’ve seen the orchestra perform “The Nutcracker” with the Olympic Ballet Theatre. And once, back in the 1990s, I went to the orchestra’s “Symphonic Rock” show, featuring Bill Whitbeck’s classic rock band. I’m embarrassed to say, it took an orchestral rendition of “Rock Around the Clock” and a Beach Boys medley to get me to the symphony.

Don Speirs, of Everett, goes to several Everett Symphony concerts each season. In years past, he worked with some symphony musicians while involved with a community theater group at the Historic Everett Theatre.

“It’s a prestige thing for our community. Having an orchestra puts us on the map,” said Speirs. “Bellevue has their own orchestra, Tacoma and Spokane have theirs. We’re the right size, but we’re seen as a blue-collar, lunch-pail type of town that doesn’t have culture.”

Speirs is unhappy seeing the Everett Symphony leave downtown. “It’s a visible loss to the community. It says something about a community, that it can’t support an orchestra,” he said.

Speirs believes that more pop concerts, broader marketing and perhaps summer symphony concerts in parks would help introduce the Everett Symphony to a wider audience and a new generation.

“For every straight classical concert, they should do two or three pop concerts,” he said.

Longtime symphony-goer Linda Vandree is also saddened by the season’s abrupt end and the loss of Cobbs. “We’ve watched him over the years. He was a blessing,” she said of the conductor.

For more than 20 years, Vandree and her husband, John, have been Everett Symphony season ticket holders. They were stunned to see a smaller audience when this season opened.

“There were so many empty seats. It just broke my heart,” Vandree said. “I think everybody has cut back — and we are, too. But we still said that’s something we want to support. People aren’t able to support it in bigger ways,” she said.

Unlike Speirs, Vandree wouldn’t want many more pop concerts. “A symphony really is classical music, and I think the Everett Symphony is excellent. They’ve gone from being a community symphony to be very well respected,” she said.

Even those of us who never attend the symphony know that. After all, the Everett Symphony Orchestra has toured Europe and played New York’s Carnegie Hall.

“I’m just so sad,” Vandree said. “It’s just a treasure.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Mt. Baker visible from the summit of Mt. Dickerman on a late summer day in 2017. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)
Hornets pester hikers on popular Mountain Loop trails

“You cannot out run the stings,” one hiker wrote in a trip report. The Forest Service has posted alerts at two trailheads.

A view of a 6 parcel, 4.4 acre piece of land in Edmonds, south of Edmonds-Woodway High School on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Housing authority seeks more property in Edmonds

The Housing Authority of Snohomish County doesn’t have specific plans for land near 80th Avenue West, if its offer is accepted.

Nursing Administration Supervisor Susan Williams points at a list of current COVID patients at Providence Regional Medical Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dozens of Providence patients in medical limbo for months, even years

About 100 people are stuck in Everett hospital beds without an urgent medical reason. New laws aim for a solution.

Emergency responders surround an ultralight airplane that crashed Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at the Arlington Municipal Airport in Arlington, Washington, resulting in the pilot's death. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Pilot dead in ultralight plane crash at Arlington Municipal Airport

There were no other injuries or fatalities reported, a city spokesperson said.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
County Council delays vote on requiring businesses to take cash

Concerns over information and enforcement postponed the council’s scheduled vote on the ordinance Wednesday in Snohomish County.

A girl walks her dog along a path lined with dandelions at Willis D. Tucker Community Park on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Spraying in Willis Tucker Park resurfaces debate over herbicides

Park staff treated about 11,000 square feet with glyphosate and 2,4-D. When applied correctly, staff said they aren’t harmful.

One of Snohomish County PUD’s new smart readers is installed at a single family home Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Mill Creek, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
PUD program seeks to make energy grid smarter for 380K customers

The public utility’s ConnectUp program will update 380,000 electric meters and 23,000 water meters in the next few years.

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

Most Read