November 21, 2017


Florida's Orchestras Take a Hit

Florida's orchestras are poised to hurt as the economy continues to plummet. Here's a look at their numbers.

Barbara Miracle | 12/1/2008

The good news for Florida orchestras is that concertgoers are buying tickets and attending events in record numbers. “We’re having great attendance this year,” says Gretchen Miller Basso, public relations director for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. Subscriptions for the OPO are up along with those at other orchestras around the state.

[iStock photo]
The bad news is that fund raising and corporate sponsorships are poised for a significant hit because of the shaky economy and consolidation on Wall Street. Merrill Lynch, for example, has supported the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, the New World Symphony in Miami Beach and the Pensacola Symphony, among other Florida orchestras. It’s unclear what its recent merger with Bank of America, another big arts supporter, will mean in 2009. Other big financial supporters of Florida’s classical music community include Raymond James Financial, SunTrust, Northern Trust, Wachovia and J.P. Morgan Private Bank.
“A majority of our sponsors have generously renewed their commitments this season, but the uncertain economy will make it more challenging and competitive to maintain that level of support. We are determined to continue our positive momentum,” says Jim Van Vleck, board chair of the Jacksonville Symphony Association.

It’s not as if Florida orchestras were rolling in cash before the economic downturn. When Michael Pastreich joined Tampa Bay’s Florida Orchestra in late 2007 as president and CEO, he faced a bleak budget picture. “We were about to run out of money,” says Pastreich. So he cut staff, negotiated a new three-year agreement with musicians and kicked off a $30-million fund-raising campaign to shore up the operating budget and pay down debt that has been built up over the years. Fort Lauderdale’s Philharmonic Orchestra of Florida shut down in 2003 because of financial problems. One of the state’s oldest and most respected orchestras, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, was among a number of orchestras that lost money last year. “This business is extremely difficult when things are working phenomenally well,” says Henry Adams, associate director of communications and marketing for the Florida Orchestra. Fortunately for Floridians, “Somehow we pull it off anyway.”

New World Symphony
New World Symphony [Photo: Craig Hall]

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