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Sour Notes

Major national classical music group in hot water

Few people noticed when Community Concerts quietly slipped into town last summer. Even fewer had heard anything about the trouble the company was facing at the time. Although company owner Brenda Trawick says she chose to relocate to Charlotte because the arts were growing here and this would be a very supportive place for the national concert presenting company, until the New York Times reported last week that the company had neglected to pay artists, had written them bad checks and that the Manhattan district attorney was considering an investigation, many in Charlotte's arts community had no idea that Community Concerts had relocated here from Manhattan."They don't do anything in Charlotte," said Shelley Bratton, executive director of Carolinas Concert Association. "They don't bring groups to Charlotte."

At its peak, the 75-year-old company was once one of the country's most well-known concert presenters, bringing thousands of opera-style concerts to folks in the country's hinterlands who normally wouldn't have access to such entertainment. In small and mid-sized towns across the country, opera fans pooled their money into community associations serviced by Community Concerts, which then brought some of the hottest names in opera to town to perform.

Now, according to the New York Times, some of those organizations have begun to pay the artists directly, rather than passing the money on to the company. Others have cut their ties to Community Concerts and are booking acts with other companies. As a group, the artists claim they are owed at least $1.5 million.

Trawick says the NYT didn't print all of her side of the story. She claims that all of the artists to whom her company owes money have been paid "something" and that she has established a payment schedule with each of them.

"Our intention is to make everyone whole," Trawick said.

James Meena, the general director of Opera Carolina, says the organization's dealings with Trawick Artists, Trawick's other company, have been positive.

"The arts management side is very reputable," said Meena. "I suspect there's more to the story that the Times could not print."

Trawick wouldn't comment on the future of Community Concerts, which she purchased in 1999.

"When I acquired the company, it was in disarray," she said. "We made a major turnaround. All of this hit at a time when the company was the most vulnerable."

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