Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

This content is made possible in part by the generous sponsorship support of The University of Minnesota.

A few clouds in a sunny Minnesota Orchestra report

Read anything bad about the Minnesota Orchestra recently? Last week, orchestra officials announced — cue the opening fanfare of “Also sprach Zarathustra” — that its budget has been balanced for the second consecutive year.

But there were a few clouds to be found in the sunny report.

The balanced-budget news capped a season that included a rave-reviewed Lincoln Center appearance, the release of two highly touted CDs to complete a Beethoven symphony cycle, the launching of three new concert series and a Grammy Award nomination.

Moreover, Music Director Osmo Vanska seems to have a Midas touch. “The critic who gives him a bad review would risk being run out of town,” quipped composer Dominick Argento — a little enviously, I thought — during an interview last summer. He agreed that the orchestra is enjoying a golden era.

And now about those clouds: The Minnesota Orchestra is the state’s largest performing arts organization, with a budget last year of $31 million. Yet it finished the year just $15,000 in the black. Total attendance at concerts and revenue from ticket sales actually declined slightly, while expenses inched up by a modest 1.3 percent.

Donors and “pre-crash” investment income made up the difference. Total contributions increased by $850,000, or about 6.3 percent for a total of $14.4 million. The society-binge Symphony Ball set an income record of $828,000. You can read the full press release on the financial report here.

Ah, but those investments! The orchestra, which has a policy of drawing out no more than 7 percent of its investments in any given year, took advantage of the market bubble and kept its draw-down to only 6 percent, the same as the previous year. But with the impact of the recent crash factored in, the value of the orchestra’s endowment took a $20 million hit, for a decline of about 11 percent.

Though the orchestra has weathered one year of recession, who knows what the 2009 financial report will look like?

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply