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Boston Camerata’s Bank Punked Them


Machaut pens extended appeal.

Back in medieval France, the great poet-musician Guillaume de Machaut wrote his greatest novel (about his affair, with a young poetess) and composed some of his most hauntingly beautiful songs during the plague years. Inspired by his example, Anne Azéma, the Camerata staff, and its board, have decided to continue planning and creating music and musical projects, undaunted in will and energy by the current health crisis. The great Machaut exhibited similar fortitude during the Black Death. We want to be like him.

On the other hand, Guillaume de Machaut never had to deal with the American banking system.

Yesterday, Friday April 3, our Boston Camerata business manager, Peter Smith, filed the online application for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the newly authorized, emergency small business provider. That was, supposedly, the first day the funds were made available, and we wanted to be as rapid as possible in our request. The online form went to Bank of America, Camerata’s bank. This is the answer Peter, and we, received:

“Based on our records, your account doesn’t qualify to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan through Bank of America. To apply for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan through Bank of America, you must have an existing Small Business relationship with the following: Small business checking account open no later than 02/15/2020, Small business lending relationship, inclusive of credit card, open no later than 02/15/2020, Online banking username and password.”

Condition number two was the killer. We are required by this bank, in an unannounced twist, to have a “Small business lending relationship, inclusive of credit card.” Whoa, Nelly! There is no such requirement in the recent law passed by Congress. This tells us, very clearly, that BOA is in violation of the intent of the law, and perhaps of the letter of the law as well. (And, by the way, Camerata has no record of debt with our bank because we have a conservative and cautious board that runs an admirably tight ship. So we are being punished for our good management!)

Can you imagine the wails of anguish going up as other outfits, similar to ours, receive this reply? One well-informed friend, officer at a local Newburyport bank, tells us in no uncertain terms that the whole program has been very poorly planned and executed. 

Following on the shocking BOA refusal, Peter, Anne Azéma and board members were busy all afternoon, and into Friday evening, contacting media and public figures. We sent an initial report, very similar to the one you received, to music journalists at the Globe. One outreach that has been helpful was the one made to Senator Markey’s office. Anne’s call was returned by a very helpful staff member. She said that they have received many calls similar to ours, and that they are now working up a major media/communications push in response. Brett Donham. our undaunted board chairman, has been in touch with Senator Warren’s office, as has Anne herself.

Meanwhile, since we need to keep the lights on, Peter has applied for a more conventional small business loan. But that’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

“This is most worrisome and disturbing” says Anne. Or, as my granny would have put it, “A schande!” And, from his perch in the Pantheon of Poets, Guillaume de Machaut has been heard to murmur, “Quelle honte!”

Joel Cohen is Music Director Emeritus of the Boston Camerata. He continues to be closely involved with Camerata as a board member, music researcher/consultant, occasional performer, and Facebook seditor.


4 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. Here’s a Saturday evening update to the Cruel Friday Trauma Report.

    This morning BOA announced a change of rules, and mere customers of the bank, not just the borrowers/debtors were allowed to apply. This our business manager did, with alacrity, and we are now waiting, along with countless other small businesses and not profits, to learn of the result. We shall keep you posted!

    Joel Cohen, Anne Azéma, and the Camerata staff and board.

    Comment by Joel Cohen — April 4, 2020 at 8:19 pm

  2. Joel, surely if Anne Azema sings josquin’s “Baisiez mouai, ma doulce amie” to the Bank Manager he cannot refuse. Yours, however, isn’t the only recent snafu along these lines. A man filling out the online form for reimbursement in the state of Ohio entered (or tried to enter) his 9-digit Social Security number in the proper little rectangle, but the rectangle would only accept eight digits; no possibility of entering nine! Claim refused. Josquin couldn’t have helped him, no how.

    Comment by Alan Levitan — April 5, 2020 at 4:28 pm

  3. I apologize to any Southerners that may be around, but Bank of America is peculiarly a wolf in sheep’s clothing. People think of humble Italian immigrants in California–but that Bank of America died. The acquiring NCNB Corp, for North Carolina National Bank, did the wolf act and slipped into the sheepskin of Bank of America. I call them Slaveowners’ Bank and try to do as little business through them as possible. As music and theatrical non-profits make use of this “facility” for “loans” please keep us informed as how these are “working”. Back in 2009 a local bank I owned shares in took out one of those preferred stock “deals” with the Feds to complete the financing commitments for a “socially responsible” housing project. That program had been billed as one to get money lent out, etc. Months later the bank sent out a tersely written letter stating the deal was off: “The purpose of this program had been misrepresented to us.”. We shall see.

    Comment by Nathan Redshield — April 5, 2020 at 7:56 pm

  4. Note to Alan Levitan —

    It’s true that Anne’s singing could melt a rock. But given the realities of contemporary America, we are also delighted that an excellent lawyer has rejoined the Boston Camerata board, just in case the Azéma musical spell does not get results with BOA.

    Meanwhile, continuing in Josquin des Pres mode, we are working up an online performance of his immortal chanson, “Faulte d’argent, c’est douleur nonpareil.”

    Comment by Joel Cohen — April 6, 2020 at 9:07 am

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