Minnesota Orchestra Reports Fiscal 2018 Balanced Budget

The Minnesota Orchestra's 2018 Annual Meeting today celebrated the artistic and financial milestones of the Orchestra's 2017-18 season, a year in which the Orchestra received a Grammy nomination and added to its Mahler symphony cycle; launched its first full-Orchestra Sensory-Friendly concert; toured to Mankato, Chicago, London and, in a first for a U.S. orchestra, South Africa-and achieved a balanced budget. Margaret Bracken was elected Board Chair by the Orchestra's Board of Directors, succeeding Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who completed a two-year term.

"The 2017-18 season was an important year for the Minnesota Orchestra in bringing people together through music both at home and abroad," said Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who served as host for the meeting. "We are grateful to this community for their contributions and their attendance, which propelled the Orchestra to a fourth consecutive year of balanced budget operations. We are particularly pleased that total capacity for the season reached 91 percent." Fiscal 2018 net operating results, driven by strong earned and contributed revenues, yielded a balanced budget with a surplus of $65,000 on a $36.7 million budget.

Incoming Chair Margaret Bracken remarked, "I am honored to take on this role in service to the Minnesota Orchestra. Running a renowned symphony orchestra is not for the faint-hearted, and we will undoubtedly face challenges. Fortunately for us, the Minnesota Orchestra is located in what we've come to call the Bold North and we are led by Osmo Vänskä, a great conductor who brings us music of complexity and emotional depth. Osmo and our musicians will set forth beacons of courage and excellence as we navigate."

A classically-trained pianist and graduate of Carleton College who spent much of her career in the field of low-income housing, Ms. Bracken first served on the Minnesota Orchestra Board in the late 1970s and rejoined in 2009. In the last decade, she has chaired the Education/Community Engagement Committee and the 2015 Symphony Ball and served on the Hall Redevelopment, Guaranty Fund, and Executive committees, among others. Bracken's ties to music and the Orchestra run deep. Her grandfather, William MacPhail, was an original member of the Orchestra (then known as the Minneapolis Symphony) and the founder of the MacPhail School of Music. Bracken co-chaired the capital campaign that successfully raised the funds to build MacPhail's current state-of-the-art facility.

Artistic highlights of the 2017-18 season included a January Tchaikovsky Marathon led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä that surveyed the Russian composer's symphonies, ballets, concertos, and chamber music; earning a Grammy nomination for a recording of Mahler's Fifth Symphony and releasing an album featuring the composer's Sixth Symphony; a U.S. tour that included residencies at the University of Illinois and Indiana University, and a performance at Chicago's Symphony Center; a Common Chords residency in Mankato, Minnesota; and programs celebrating the 50th anniversary of Minnesota Public Radio, the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence, and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation featuring a world premiere by Sebastian Currier that The New York Times described as "harrowingly effective."

In October, the Send Me Hope community concert united gospel choirs and young bucket drummers with the Orchestra under the baton of Roderick Cox in his final season as associate conductor, and in June the organization's first full-Orchestra Sensory-Friendly family concert welcomed audiences of all abilities to Orchestra Hall. In the summer, the Orchestra launched a large-scale "Music for Mandela" celebration commemorating Nelson Mandela's centennial that included Sommerfest concerts in Minneapolis, one featuring Mandela's daughter Makaziwe Mandela as a guest speaker, as well as a tour to London and then South Africa, where the Orchestra became the first U.S. orchestra to tour the country, performing and offering musical exchanges with students in Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Soweto, and Johannesburg.

In administrative news, the 2017-18 season saw the retirement of President and CEO Kevin Smith, after four years as the Orchestra's leader, and the appointment of Michelle Miller Burns-most recently of the Dallas Symphony-as its incoming president; Ms. Burns began her new post on September 1, 2018.

"The musicians will always be grateful to Kevin Smith and Marilyn Carlson Nelson for their bold vision outlining all that the Orchestra can accomplish and for the collaborative culture that they championed," said Greg Milliren, associate principal flute and chair of the Musicians' Committee. "We are excited to continue that partnership with Michelle Miller Burns and Margee Bracken, both of whom are leaders who have committed so much of their lives to supporting music."

The Minnesota Orchestra's total expenses for Fiscal 2018 were $36.7 million, an increase over the prior year's $32.6 million. That increase was due to a few factors, including contractually-planned compensation increases and one-time expenses relating to the South Africa tour that were offset by increased fundraising. During the same time period, the organization's total invested assets grew by three percent over the prior year to $134 million.

"We saw solid results in both contributed and earned revenue for the year," said Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns. "And these factors were critical in achieving a balanced budget."

In fact, total earned revenue rose to $12 million-surpassing budget expectations-compared to $10.5 million in the prior year. This growth was fueled by increases in both ticket sales income and income from rental opportunities, and food, beverage and concession sales. "Total capacity for all concerts reached 91 percent, which marks a five-year high for the Orchestra," said Ms. Burns. "It is inspiring to see such strong audience support." By comparison, total capacity in Fiscal 2017 was 87 percent.

The Orchestra's total contributions from its annual Guaranty Fund, Symphony Ball, Oakleaf Trust distributions, tour funding and major gifts in Fiscal 2018 rose to $22.4 million, an increase of $4 million over the prior year. "Much of that increase was due to a special, one-time gift to support the Orchestra's tour to South Africa and London's BBC Proms," said Ms. Burns. "But we're particularly pleased that our base of contributors continues to expand. More than 1,000 donors joined the Orchestra's ranks last season." The total number of donors is now nearly 8,500 contributors.

"The success of our strategic plan hinges on the tremendous support of a growing circle of donors and concertgoers, and we offer our thanks to them for their support of the 2017-18 season," said Ms. Burns.

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