Seattle Symphony Posts $3.2 Million Deficit

Classic Arts News   Seattle Symphony Posts $3.2 Million Deficit
The Seattle Symphony Orchestra finished the 2005-06 season $2.15 million in the red, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The orchestra's accumulated deficit now stands at $3.2 million.

The paper notes that a deficit that size is unprecedented in the history of Seattle arts organizations, although Seattle Opera chalked up a deficit of $3 million in 1991.

The SSO's annual budget is $21.3 million, reduced by $500,000 over the last season.

SSO board chairman Ronald B. Woodard told The Seattle Times that the deficit can be attributed to a number of factors, including "surprisingly soft" ticket sales for July concerts. As a result, the board is examining the upcoming season with an eye to cutting programs that don't guarantee a decent audience turnout.

According to The Seattle Times, the orchestra's financial situation is not likely to improve significantly until 2008-09, when the accumulated deficit will begin to be reduced.

There is some good news, however. Apart from a gift from the Charles Simonyi Fund for the Arts and Sciences, which has given $3 million over the past few seasons, the orchestra recently received a $5 million anonymous pledge toward its $29.3 million endowment.

The Times also notes that a sizeable percentage of the SSO's budget comes from ticket sales, and attendance and subscriptions are healthy.

It's been a tough few months for the SSO. In June, musicians reportedly expressed unhappiness, in a survey which has not yet been made public, with the leadership of longtime music director Gerard Schwarz. That same month, Paul Meecham, the orchestra's executive director, revealed that he would leave his position at the end of this year; he subsequently departed early to take the chief executive's job at the Baltimore Symphony, where he begins work on October 1.

SSO interim executive director Mary Ann Champion told the Post-Intelligencer, "We intend to go forward and overcome this. The board agreed to accept a short-term deficit in order to remain focused on the artistic goals of the institution."

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