Thursday, October 18, 2007

Some straight talk at the Oregon Symphony annual meeting

I attended the Oregon Symphony's annual meeting today and heard a serious, thoughtful and straightforward presentation, which was refreshing. Here are some highlights:

Carlos Kalmar address touched on the Waterfront collaboration with Portland Opera and Oregon Ballet Theatre. He referred to the financial struggles of the orchestra, but also said that it was playing at an exceptionally high level. For next year, the Symphony hope to draw larger audiences with big names, such as Garrick Ohlsson, Stephen Hough, Lang Lang, and Edgar Meyer. They are apparently working out a deal with Jeff Tyzik for the pops series and Thomas Lauderdale is somewhere in the mix as well.

Orchestra Committee Chair and associate concertmaster Peter Frajola remarked on the recent changes in orchestra personnel, including those who retired, resigned to take jobs elsewhere, and one who recently passed away. Frajola reasserted that the desire of his colleagues to make the Oregon Symphony a destination orchestra and not a pass through orchestra.

Walter Weyler, board chair, noted that the economic downturn in 2001 really hurt the endowment, and that the orchestra lost $1.7 million last year and that pushed their accumulated deficit to about $7. They can't continue operating with another big loss. So the object is to shore up things this season and aim to break even during the 2008-2009 season.

President Elaine Calder said that ticket sales are currently at $4 milion and the organization has targeted $5.5 million as its goal. Everyone is working to reduce costs - and one part of that has been the reduction in administrative staff. A small group of big time supporters are committed to seeing the symphony through this tough time. Everyone is working hard to make sure that the Symphony takes care of the bottom line and begins to grow again.

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