published Monday, March 17th, 2014

Memphis orchestra expects to finish season

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The struggling Memphis Symphony Orchestra expects to finish out the season thanks to some financial help.

Symphony CEO and President Roland Valliere told The Commercial Appeal that the organization has gotten two $100,000 donations and the Memphis Symphony Musicians have held several benefit concerts. In addition, there have been several program changes to close the funding shortfall.

"It's looking very promising that we will finish this season," said Valliere. "But we won't make a formal announcement about next season until we align our expenses with revenue to come up with a financial model that is sustainable."

The symphony's endowment was used up by 2011 and Valliere, who started in his position in November, has made a number of changes in an effort to save the organization. The operating budget still needs work, he said.

Asked why the board orchestra's board didn't reduce programming earlier instead of relying on its endowment, Valliere said the board knew the money was dwindling but "there was a notion that when things turned around, there would be enough and it just never happened."

Several symphony and opera organizations across the nation have experience financial struggles in recent years.

"A number of arts organizations, particularly classical music organizations, have ended up getting themselves into some pretty serious financial problems because of the financial crisis," said Ruth McCambridge, editor-in-chief of Nonprofit Quarterly. "During times of crisis, boards really need to look at their financials differently and more frequently so they can flag ongoing problems. There is a different level of oversight needed when you are experiencing declines."

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