Grand Rapids Symphony posts $65K budget surplus

Dec 17, 2010

It's not all bad news coming out of the symphony world.

The Grand Rapids Symphony is the second largest orchestra in Michigan, after the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. And yet the two arts organizations finances couldn't be farther apart. The GR Symphony posted a $65,000 budget surplus for the 2010 fiscal year; the DSO posted an $8.8 million deficit.

Peter Kjome is president of the GR Symphony. He says even though fundraising was up 10% this past fiscal year, more work still needs to be done moving forward:

"We know that we've got to maintain a sense of urgency to balance our budget this season."

Kjome says the Symphony was nearly $500,000 in the red last year, but "through the involvement of our Board of Directors...we've been able to increase fundraising by about $400,000...and that's been a very important part of the picture for us."

The bigger picture

The two different financial pictures - deficit in Detroit, surplus in Grand Rapids - are being played out at symphony's around the country. Judith Kurnick says that's because "the orchestra situation mirrors the local economy."

Kurnick is with the League of American Orchestras. She says don’t sound the death knell for classical music just because some orchestras are struggling:

"We had a meeting of 15 representative orchestras of all sizes here at the League, and we found it was almost evenly divided between those that were experiencing positive direction and those that were in more serious straits."

So far this year the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the Honolulu Symphony is going through liquidation.  

She says orchestras in Minnesota and Chicago are doing well, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra just raised $20 million in two months.