Ontario's Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Near Financial Ruin, Could Close by Month's End

Classic Arts News   Ontario's Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Near Financial Ruin, Could Close by Month's End
The Ontario-based Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra has announced that it must raise C$2.5 million by the end of this month to survive.

In a statement on its website, KWS board chair Bob Astley said, "The symphony has enjoyed a rich history of providing spectacular and memorable live performances to our community. However, we have reached a point where the symphony is in a serious financial situation that threatens our future in the region."

To stave off its demise, the KWS is launching a month-long fundraising campaign called "Save Our Symphony," which will appeal to supporters, community leaders, local governments and provincial and federal arts bodies. If the money is not raised, the orchestra will be forced to declare bankruptcy.

This is not the first fiscal challenge the KWS has faced. According to the statement, there was an accumulated deficit of approximately C$580,000 before the 2005-06 season, leading to an accumulated deficit of C$1.2 million.

Between 2002 and 2006, total revenue declined by more than 6 percent, while expenses increased by almost 11 percent. The deficit is attributable to declining ticket sales, a cut in grants from the Ontario Arts Council and fundraising shortfalls.

The KWS's eighteen board members have pledged their financial support for a total of C$230,000, which is close to 10 percent of the overall community goal, according to the statement.

The orchestra has also developed a plan to reduce expenses and implemented short-term cost-cutting measures. Staff and musicians salaries will be cut fifteen percent.

Another statement on the orchestra's website voices "unanimous support" from the musicians. "We, the musicians of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Players' Association, are dismayed by the current financial crisis, and we are working with management in their campaign."

Raffi Armenian, who conducted the orchestra from 1970 to 1993, told the local newspaper, The Record, "I don't want to see my 23 years just melting away. It takes so long to build something and it's so easy to destroy it." He also voiced surprise that the orchestra let its financial situation become so precarious that it now only has three weeks to save itself.

Dan Donaldson, the KWS's general manager, told the paper that orchestra officials only realized the severity of the crisis at the end of the fiscal year in August.

The KWS is also without a permanent conductor; it fired conductor Martin Fischer-Dieskau in 2004 following an acrimonious dispute over artistic and financial matters.

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