The Kansas City Symphony experienced a “dream come true” in 2011–2012 with its move into the magnificent Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts as one of three resident companies. In addition to performing varied series of concerts in Helzberg Hall, the Symphony also performs as the pit orchestra in the Kauffman Theater for the other two KCPA resident companies, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Kansas City Ballet.
According to Executive Director Frank Byrne, the KCS enjoyed record breaking success at the box office and onstage in 2011–2012. Through the terrific work and dedication of the KCS board, staff, and musicians this success continues in 2012–2013 and shows no sign of letting up during this important sophomore season. KCS estimates show that approximately 70,000 people attended a free Symphony concert or event in 2011–2012.
The Kansas City Symphony reported its highest revenue numbers ever for 2011–2012. In comparison to the previous fiscal year, overall ticket sales revenue increased 46.8% to $3.9 million dollars, contributed income increased 7.7% to $7.6 million, total operating revenue increased 16.8% to $14 million and total earned income increased 47% to $4.7 million.
The KCS experienced record ticket sales in 2011–2012,with most concerts completely sold out. Interest in the KCS was nationwide; tickets were purchased by residents of 45 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 39,000 young people and adults attended Kansas City Symphony educational events, a nearly 100% increase over the previous year.
ICSOM President Brian Rood reports that the KCS was recently featured in a nationally-broadcast PBS special. “Homecoming: The Kansas City Symphony presents Joyce DiDonato” was aired on 447 channels in 47 states to a potential audience of over 260 million people. The KCS’s broadcast of its 2012 “Bank of America Celebration at the Station” concert (adjacent to the Westin Crown Center, soon to be the site of the 2013 ICSOM Conference) recently won a regional Emmy award for Best Live Event.
Overall ticket sales remain very strong in 2012–2013, with no drop in subscription sales from last year’s record levels. Total subscription revenue as of October 1 is up 6.7%.Classical subscription revenue is up 6%,and pops subscription revenue is up 12.9%.
Honolulu ICSOM delegate Steve Flanter reports that in the wake of the Honolulu Symphony Chapter 7 bankruptcy and dissolution in 2009, the formation of the new Hawaii Symphony took a painfully long amount of time. By the spring of 2011 many important things had already been put in place. The assets of the bankrupt Honolulu Symphony, including the music library and instruments, had been purchased for the new organization. A three-year CBA calling for 30 weeks of work per season had been negotiated with the musicians’ union. As the new Hawaii Symphony Board struggled to reach consensus on when to resume producing concerts, the start date of the new orchestra, which had been expected in Autumn 2011, was pushed later and later. Finally, with much support and guidance from Steven Monder and JoAnn Falletta, the board scheduled the new orchestra’s first concert in March 2012. As time was running out for the season to begin, the union agreed to a shortened 16 week season this first season, which was a nearly 50% cut in the organization’s budget and also in musician compensation. Audience response was tremendous to the sold out opening concert, which introduced a generally well-attended Masterworks (classical) series. A pops series soon followed. All involved felt that the season’s concerts were a strong artistic success.
Financially, the situation was more mixed. On the positive side, the Honolulu Symphony Foundation (which controls the endowment from the bankrupt Honolulu Symphony) was able to provide over $400,000 in order to start the season. Ticket revenues for the season exceeded the $800,000 goal in Acting Executive Director Steven Monder’s budget—even though the organization lacked any full-time marketing staff, was given a very slim budget for advertising, and had very little lead time. (There wasn’t even time to create a season brochure.) On the negative side, donations lagged from their budgeted goal. While the key members of the HSO board had initially expressed confidence that they could raise much of the donated portion of the originally planned $6 million budget, they fell short of expectations, even with this season’s reduced $3 million budget. It’s possible that the initial reluctance of most of the Hawaii Symphony board members to make substantial donations themselves may have led others in the community to lack confidence in the venture. In addition, some significant pledges from the community (totaling $800,000) were reneged upon as the end of the season drew near.
Another major problem was that the board didn’t fund anything close to the kind of management infrastructure that Steven Monder had said he needed. Mr. Monder said that he could make the first season work with 12 full-time staff, but the board approved only 5. In the end, Mr. Monder was left with only two full-time staff (himself and a development director) plus a few part-time staff members. There was no director of finance, no full-time operations or marketing staff, and no education department. There wasn’t even a receptionist for the office.
Since the new Hawaii Symphony’s July 4 Pops concert, which closed the first mini-season, very little has been planned for the future. The members of the HSO board have discussed whether they should commit to even having a second season until they can raise in advance a significant portion of the necessary operating funds, estimated at $2 million (which represents the total budget not including projected ticket revenues and written pledges). This is problematic, since trying to raise funds without assuring potential donors that there will even be a next season is difficult. The HSO musicians feel that the organization would have the best chance for success by committing to a second season and then planning concerts as soon as possible. It would also demonstrate the kind of board leadership that would inspire the community to donate. Mr. Monder has told the board that one essential step to moving forward successfully would be to build an effective management infrastructure. He has indicated that $500,000 invested in infrastructure would be sufficient to put the management in good stead. The board has not yet committed to this funding.
In any case, a second season will not begin before 2013, since a traveling show has moved into the concert hall and will be there until January 2013. After a bumpy but also inspiring first season, musicians are disappointed not to know when or even if there will be a next Hawaii Symphony concert.
Delegate Sam Hager reports that the San Diego Symphony was awarded a $580,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation through its competitive Exploring Engagement Fund for Large Organizations. The Exploring Engagement Fund for Large Organizations seeks to promote engagement in the arts for all Californians and to advance the ways in which a broad spectrum of the public can participate in arts programming. San Diego Symphony was chosen as one of eight large-budget arts organization recipients.
According to Jane Rice, director of development at the San Diego Symphony, the idea for the project originated in meetings with musician representatives of the orchestra. Those musicians will remain involved with the program during its implementation.
With the help of the grant, beginning in early 2013 the San Diego Symphony will create a new interactive and contributory arts program entitled Your Song, Your Story. Residents of traditionally underserved San Diego neighborhoods will contribute their shared poems, stories and songs to an original multi-media piece, to be commissioned by the San Diego Symphony. The final product will be presented to the wider San Diego community in summer 2014.
Your Song, Your Story will implement the latest technological advances during the collection process and outreach into traditionally underserved neighborhoods via local print media, radio and television stations, social networking, and advertising. Once the piece is completed, the San Diego Symphony will perform it downtown at Copley Symphony Hall. Versions of the score will also be performed within the area by smaller groups. San Diego musicians will travel to participating communities and perform the piece at celebratory block party events for all neighboring residents. Regional performance groups, including dance troupes and indigenous instrumental ensembles, are expected to contribute to the presentation of these unique community concerts.