Even before the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra filed for bankruptcy on May 10, its musicians were looking ahead and making plans. They resolved to keep orchestra music alive in New Mexico. Shortly after the closing of NMSO was announced, its former musicians made an announcement of their own: the formation of the New Mexico Philharmonic.
The last few years were rocky for the NMSO, with major funding shortages, contract disputes and musicians not getting paid for months at a stretch. [News, "A Sour Note," Oct. 8-14, 2009.] Christine Rancier, a violist formerly with NMSO, says by phone that the New Mexico Philharmonic has actually been in the works since Fall 2009. “The board was quietly formed during the lockout status,” she says, referring to the time when the musicians' contracts had expired and negotiations were stalled.
Creating the New Mexico Philharmonic was a Plan B for the musicians in case the symphony went under. Paperwork and filing can take time, but since the process was started a few years ago, the organization is already a fully established nonprofit. The board of directors consists of two musicians and four prominent community members, and Rancier—who is also the orchestra's registered agent—says they are actively seeking others to join.
One of the group's first goals is to acquire the NMSO music library, which was started in the ‘30s, and some necessary instruments. The members are already fundraising. Booking concerts is also top priority, and Rancier says they’ve been successful on that front, too. The orchestra will play a concert at the KiMo Theatre on Friday, May 27. Mayor Richard Berry is throwing the red-carpet event, which benefits the orchestra. Concerts at the Rio Grande Zoo are also lined up. More information can be found on the New Mexico Philharmonic website, nmphil.org, which is planned to launch on Thursday, May 19. Rancier says every artist who played with the NMSO will be offered a position in the N.M. Philharmonic.