Balanced Budget Celebration!

The Minnesota Orchestra will report a balanced budget for FY 2015.

I’ve got one phrase for this:

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Some excerpts from the press release, accompanied by reaction gifs.

The Fiscal 2015 budget of $30.6 million is balanced

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The Orchestra’s annual endowment contribution was based on a 5 percent draw for operations

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“The spirit of engagement and collaboration we are feeling within the organization has clearly also been sensed by donors, who have been eager to support the Orchestra at every turn.”

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In total, 7,105 unique donors contributed to the Orchestra, an increase of nearly 30 percent over the previous year.

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“We made the strategic decision this year to eliminate from our books approximately $9.5 million in debt that dates to the early 2000s,” said Smith. “It has been a long held goal to pay this off and now we are clear of it.”

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Clarinetist Tim Zavadil said, “The musicians are absolutely thrilled with the news of this year’s balanced operating result, and we are incredibly grateful to our board, staff, supporters and community for this achievement.  Under the leadership of Warren Mack and Kevin Smith, the Orchestra has laid the foundation for a strong financial future.  We now look forward to a strong musical future, continuing our work with Osmo Vänskä, and serving our community.”

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I’m sure there will be asterisks to the final report. I’d like to see an increase in capacity, for instance. And hopefully that’s coming. But in general, hot damn, y’all. We can’t solve all the world’s problems in one season, and hopefully none of us were hoping to.

I want to be sentimental and take a second to give credit where credit is due… Namely, to:

The musicians. You swam through hell. And it was one of the great privileges of my life so far to watch you do it. You had grit, determination, grace, and a fabulous sense of humor. I think you’ve finally gotten to the other side. So many of you could have decamped to other cities, to other ensembles. So many of you didn’t. Indeed, you not only stayed; you anchored yourselves even more resolutely into this community, and you convinced some great new players to join you (a huge welcome to Susie Park and Rui Du). We owe you. We love you. You keep in touch with us, and let us know when you need anything. Don’t let yourself grow insular.

The people of Minnesota. When each new orchestral labor dispute pops up, I feel disoriented. I feel disoriented because I take it for granted that every community must care as much as you did, must be as well-organized as you were. But that’s not always true. There was a team of community members who made extraordinary sacrifices of time, sweat, tears, and energy to make sure Minnesota wouldn’t be saddled with a dispirited second-rate musical ensemble. You know who you are. You know I know who you are, and that I’m talking about you. Thank you.

Osmo. The New York Times was clearly skeptical at your decision to return to the Minnesota Orchestra. You mentioned in one interview that some of your friends thought you were crazy. But you saw hope in the chaos, and I think history will judge that you made the right choice. Thank you.

Kevin Smith and board leadership. You guys inherited a Titanic steering straight toward an iceberg, and somehow you turned the ship. There’s still an ice field ahead (every orchestra is always navigating one), but you guys turned the ship in time to avoid a tragic ending that, two years ago, seemed so depressingly predestined.

A special thank-you to Kevin Smith especially for so many things. For being accessible. For being personable. For being smart. For understanding how orchestras and operas work. But most of all, for his vision. I think Kevin Smith’s vision will be the thing we’ll remember most about his tenure. I can’t wait to see where that vision brings this organization next.

The music. Because the music is why we’re all here. It wasn’t for the drama of the power struggles, or the fun of combing 990s, or, indeed, the shape of the organization’s bottom line. We’re here because at some point in our lives, we were dazzled by the magic of orchestral music played at the highest level. One day, the charisma of this particular ensemble bewitched each and every once of us. Accordingly, this is a great time to remember: a balanced budget without The Art – the maddeningly seductive, impossibly punishing, achingly evocative capital-A Art – at the center means nothing compared to this.

So let’s make this season the best yet. Let’s make ourselves dizzy with communal achievement. Let’s work to make the lockout the start of something beautiful and lasting. Let’s embark on an era of stability, institutional honesty, and artistic and fiscal and emotional strength and growth. Let’s aspire to be a beacon to every other struggling orchestra. Let’s prove that wildest dreams can come true, as long as the dreamers possess grit, decency, elbow grease, and a little bit of luck.

Let’s play.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Balanced Budget Celebration!

  1. John Kim Munholland

    this is silly. The current leadership does not inspire any confidence that the board has learned anything from the lockout or that it has any interest in cultivating popular support from long term fans, such as yours truly, for the orchestra. We will continue to do what we can afford, but my loyalty has shifted to the SPCO after attending both opening performances this weekend. J.K. Munholland

    • I have to disagree with you. The board that made no substantial change in organizational direction post-lockout was SPCO. Of course it’s not a competition between SPCO and Minnesota Orchestra…we deserve to have two world-class orchestras…and I think it’s time we all try our damndest to look past the labor disputes of 2012-14. But if you’re concerned about the way that patrons/fans have been treated during crippling work stoppages, you should definitely know what went on when patrons/fans tried to get involved with the SPCO. Several of the founding members of Save Our Symphony Minnesota were actually rebuffed by SPCO management in (IMHO) tremendously disappointing ways in the days during and after their lockout. Hopefully you will have more success than they did in implementing an organization responsive to concerned community members…

      • John Kim Munholland

        I have no interest about the infighting of either organization’s internal rivalries or disputes. I am an outsider who only looks at what has been the outcome for mere ordinary, long-term subscribers and what have been the results for us as mere consumers.

        • I confess I’m still confused.

        • John Kim Munholland

          I should add to the reply above that the two performances were celebrations of the restorations of these two orchestras and, as such, reflected the achievements of the two organizations in overcoming the crises produced by the respective lockouts. My comparison of these two events was based upon our personal tastes and preferences for that of the SPCO. Of course, we are quite fortunate to have two first class orchestras in the Twin Cities. I hope that this does not us prevent us from judging and, ultimately, comparing what one organization chooses to present over the other. That was the comparison my wife and I made this weekend and, perhaps, the choice some of us will have to make in the future. In short, we did not appreciate what we experienced at Orchestra Hall and therefore took exception to this overly laudatory post. We do appreciate the news of a balanced budget.

    • Sarah

      How exactly has the SPCO board “learned anything from the lockout”? I can’t think of any changes. In contrast, it’s been 180 degrees at the Minnesota Orchestra.

      • John Kim Munholland

        I have no basis, since I know nothing as an outsider, about the workings of either organization. All I can do as a customer, is judge the product, however it gets produced. From the outside, I see some difference in attitude from the management of the Minnesota Orchestra, and I appreciate the Orchestra’s artistic success in recovering from the lockout (the same can be said for the SPCO, even if there appear to be a legacy of resentments on that side of the river). To a great extent this is a personal matter of where one feels comfortable. For us, last weekend, it was St. Paul.

  2. I, for one, am simply thrilled at the news of the balanced budget. I don’t think anyone (or few) expected it. And it is very worthy of the celebratory champagne toasts at this weekend’s delightful concerts. I also know, as all fans of the Minnesota Orchestra do, that we can’t rest on our laurels – we obviously need to keep the momentum going and not let up. So, cheers to all of us who collectively delivered a virtual miracle in Minnesota, and, as Emily says, let’s see where we go from here!!!

  3. This really does feel like a miracle. If you think back a few years ago when the so called “financial experts” were trying to convince us that the orchestra would go down the tubes if Tony Ross and his principle pals did not take a 50 percent pay cut–the balanced budget announcement speaks volumes about what fine leadership can accomplish. There were many involved with this 180 turnaround, but the leadership at the top has changed the entire culture of this institution in a very short time. By seeing beyond the numbers and approaching challenges from many different angles, the leadership has, in the end, greatly improved them. And this is worth celebrating because this is SUSTAINABLE

  4. decosse

    This comeback proves again that “The Vision” is the key to success.
    A “Budget Driven” vision is the road to disaster. This holds true for all non-profit arts organizations.

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