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Florida's Orchestras Take a Hit

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.

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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]

> Sarasota Orchestra (formerly Florida West Coast Symphony)

Koko Kita
Koko Kita, timpani

Founded: 1948
Main Concert Venues:
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota; Neel Performing Arts Center at Manatee Community College, Bradenton
Artistic Director: Leif Bjaland, since 1996
Annual Attendance: 53,000
Ticket Prices: $36 to $82 for single tickets; $198 to $468 for seven Masterworks concerts
Notable Events: James Ehnes, Brahms Violin Concerto (January), Cirque de la Symphonie (January), Bugs Bunny on Broadway (February)

[iStock photo]
Musician Salary: N/A
Major Sponsors: Bank of America, Comerica, Harris Private Bank, Northern Trust, Anne Folsom Interior Design
Revenue: $12.5 million (June 2007)
Profit: $6 million

> New World Symphony Miami Beach

Founded: 1987
Main Concert Venue: Lincoln Theatre, Miami Beach
Artistic Director: Michael Tilson Thomas
Annual Attendance: 80,600
Ticket Prices: $28 to $84 for single ticket; $144 to $348 for six Sunday Afternoon Concerts; 30 concerts during the season that are free or less than $15 a ticket
Notable Events: Joshua Bell, violinist (January), Vladimir Feltsman, piano, all Tchaikovsky concert (May), Musician Salary: New World Symphony relies on
musicians who participate in the NWS Orchestral Academy, which offers an intensive, three-year program of performance and training. More than 1,000 applicants each year compete for 35 fellowships, which include free housing, a weekly stipend and other benefits. Fellows must have a B.A. degree.
Major Sponsors: Carnival Cruise Lines, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Northern Trust, SunTrust, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Bank of America, World Fuel Services
Revenue: $106.8 million (June 2007); includes building campaign for new academy campus designed by prominent architect Frank Gehry adjacent to the Lincoln Theatre
Profit: $2 million

> The Florida Orchestra St. Petersburg

Anna Kate Mackle
Anna Kate Mackle, principal harp
[Photo: Lori Ballard]
Founded: 1968
Main Concert Venues: Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg; Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa; Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater
Music Director: Stefan Sanderling, since 2003
Annual Attendance: 77,338 paid and 63,508 outreach
Ticket Prices: $19 to $65 for single tickets; $229 to $728 for 14 Masterworks concerts
Notable Events: Stravinski’s Petrushka with Puppets (January), The Music of Pink Floyd (January), "Oz with Orchestra" with the “Wizard of Oz” film (May)
Musician Salary: Base pay is $28,500 for 29 weeks of performance and one week paid vacation, health insurance, instrument insurance and pension benefits. Principal chair musicians in each section receive an additional 25% in pay.
Major Sponsors: Progress Energy, Raymond James Financial, Holland America Line Revenue: $11 million (June 2008 unaudited)
Profit: $550,000

> Naples Philharmonic Orchestra

Suzanne Kirton
Suzanne Kirton, principal flute
[Photos: Nathan Hill]
Glenn Basham
Glenn Basham, concertmaster

Founded: 1982
Main Concert Venue: Philharmonic Center for the Arts
Music Director: Jorge Mester, since 2004
Annual Attendance: 109,000
Ticket Prices: $32 to $69 for single tickets; $354 for six classical concerts; $270 for seven Pops concerts
Notable Events: Sypert Salon Chamber Music Series (November to February), New Year’s Eve Gala Big Band Bash (December)
Musician Salary: $46,070 to $57,598 plus benefits, including a 6% 401(k) match and health and life insurance
Corporate Sponsors: Focus is on foundation and individual givers
Revenue: $7.8 million (June 2007) Loss: $100,000

> Pensacola Symphony Orchestra

Founded: 1926
Main Concert Venue: Saenger Theatre (under renovation)
Music Director: Peter Rubardt, since 1997
Annual Attendance: 35,000
Ticket Prices: $20 to $55 for single tickets (students and active military, $10);
$190 to $375 for five Masterworks and two Pops concerts
Notable Events: Marimba player Naoko Takada (January), singers Karen and Steve Multer (February), pianist Terrence Wilson (March)
Major Sponsors: Merrill Lynch, Avalex Technologies, Baptist Health Care, Sacred Heart Health System

Rang Hee Kim
Rang Hee Kim, associate concertmaster
[Photo: Charles Baisden]
Musician Salary: Musicians are paid per performance and average $4,500 to $6,000 per orchestra season
Revenue: $1 million (May 2007) Loss: $75,799

> Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra

Fabio Mechetti
Fabio Mechetti [Photo: Laird]
Founded: 1949
Main Concert Venue: Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts
Music Director: Fabio Mechetti, since 1999
Annual Attendance: 110,000
Ticket Prices: $18 to $65 for single tickets; $170 to $595 for the 10-concert Masterworks Series
Notable Events: Puccini’s Turandot (February), The Manhattan Transfer (February), Mahler’s Fifth Symphony (March), Pops headliners Ben Vereen (March) and Mozart’s Requiem (April)
Musician Salary: $38,036 for a 37-week season
Major Sponsors: Fidelity National Financial, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, Mayo Clinic, Bank of America, Target, Publix Super Markets Charities
Revenue: $8.7 million (June 2007) Loss: $640,539

> Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra

Mark Fischer
Mark Fischer, principal horn and general manager [Photo: M & E Image & Design / Enrique Fux]
Founded: 1993
Main Concert Venue: Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre
Music Director: Christopher Wilkins, since 2006
Annual Attendance: 69,585, plus 63,000 at Young People’s Concerts
Ticket Prices: $13 to $65 for single tickets; $65 to $550 for 10 classical and pops concert
Notable Events: Five by Design (January), Andre Watts (February), Sweeney Todd with Broadway star Davis Gaines (March)
Musician Salary: Pay by the performance, but the orchestra estimates that a musician who accepted all performances offered could make $14,000 to $18,000.
Major Sponsors: Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, MSCW, Massey Services, Orlando Downtown Marriott, Siemens Energy
Revenue: $3.5 million (June 2007) Profit: $351,316