State Budgets Include Increased Funding for New Jersey and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras

Classic Arts News   State Budgets Include Increased Funding for New Jersey and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras
The state governments of Pennsylvania and New Jersey have allocated significant amounts of funding to local orchestras in their 2006 budgets, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and New Jersey Star-Ledger report.

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will receive $1 million to support its education program for at-risk youth. Last year the orchestra received $500,000.

Victor Parsonnet, the orchestra's board chairman, said, "We have demonstrated in our Youth Strings Program that education in music increases the grades in science and language and other subjects for those who have the music courses."

A recent audit reported that the orchestra is still carrying a debt of $19.5 million, although it has already cut its shortfall by half.

Other New Jersey institutions to benefit from state funding are theater organizations and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, which will get $22.7 million.

In Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been allocated $2.25 million to pay its operating expenses.

The orchestra is entering a stage of increased expenses, as its musicians' contracts specify that the 2005-06 season bring a minimum salary of 95 percent of the minimum salaries of the country's five top orchestras. The result could be a 21 percent increase in minimum salaries, from $83,182 to $101,084.

The salary increases are part of an agreement that goes back to 2003, when musicians agreed to two years of salary reductions in exchange for the raise this coming September.

Even with the state funding, the orchestra will operate with a structural deficit of $2.5 million next season.

Richard Simmons, the orchestra's board president, said, "While [the funding] won't balance our budget, it's certainly a major step toward balancing our budget. Nevertheless, we still have more work to do in terms of fundraising to try to narrow the gap even further."

Simmons, along with the orchestra's president and CEO Lawrence Tamburri and others, have been lobbying for the funding over the past two years.

Simmons said that the point of the meetings was to "[help] legislators understand why it was so terribly important to support the Pittsburgh Symphony at this time in particular."

According to the Post-Gazette, the funding represents the largest amount given to a performing-arts group in recent Pennsylvania history.

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