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Arts & Culture

Should The City Pay For The Spreckels Pavilion Organist?

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Balboa Park's historic organ in the Spreckels Pavilion has been played on Sundays for decades.

But that may stop if the City Council decides to slash the line item in the Parks and Recreation budget that pays the organist's hourly performance fee of $555. (As has been noted in the comments below, the use of the word "hourly" is misleading. A "performance fee" would be more accurate. I regret the error).

According to the U-T, some council members are unhappy with the cost, given the deep cuts being made elsewhere to offset the city's $56.7 million deficit. The Mayor recently proposed major cuts to the parks budget which reduces the hours at recreation centers across the city and eliminates jobs.

The question being raised is: can the city afford the luxury of a weekly organ performance in these current economic times?

Councilman Carl DeMaio told the U-T that the annual $29,000 allotted for the organist's performances should come out of the Arts and Culture Commission budget.

Carol Williams has been the civic organist since 2001. Her annual salary is $56,000 and is funded by both the city and the Spreckels Organ Society, which pays the remaining amount for her consultation as artistic director.

Also from the U-T article:

Stacey LoMedico, park and recreation director, said the Sunday concerts go hand-in-hand with her department’s mission.

“This contract, which represents 0.00034 percent of the Park & Recreation Department’s $83 million General Fund annual budget, allows San Diegans to enjoy a cherished recreational program in place since 1926 at one of our iconic landmarks,” she said in an e-mail. “The organist contract allows us to maintain and enjoy a landmark gifted to the citizens by one of our city’s founding families — one that has rewarded generations of San Diegans with simple, free Sunday enjoyment at Balboa Park. If that’s outside the Park and Recreation Department’s core mission, it’s news to me.”
What do you think? Should the tradition be upheld and the city absorb the price of having a free Sunday performance at the Spreckels Pavilion?

UPDATE: I just spoke with a representative from the Mayor's office who said the $555 rate is a weekly rate. The organist spends roughly 30 hours a week doing prep work and learning new material.