Arts and Humanities
12:00 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Good Financial News for the Louisville Orchestra

Credit Louisville Orchestra

Despite the unforeseen expenses of two executive searches, the Louisville Orchestra ended the fiscal year well in the black. Executive director Andrew Kipe said an uptick in season subscription and single-ticket sales resulted in an estimated $20,000 surplus for fiscal year 2014.

Kipe joined the orchestra last October, after Robert Birman stepped down in January 2013. In the same year, the orchestra embarked on a search for a music director to succeed Jorge Mester, stressing the balanced budget the board had passed.

“We added, I think, four additional concerts last year as part of that search process, to be able to see multiple candidates and to bring Teddy back for the preview concert we had in February,” Kipe said, referring to new music director Teddy Abrams. “That wasn’t foreseen. So as the year goes on, the best laid plans for budgets fluctuate.”

(The surplus was achieved without the help of large unexpected gifts or bequests, according to an Orchestra release - and that hasn't happened for at least 15 years.)

Two sold-out concerts helped saved the day – Academy Award-winning film composer John Williams’ guest-conducting appearance in January and the season closer, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which featured four soloists, a large choir, and Mester at the podium for his farewell concert as music director. The bottom (as-yet unaudited) line: single-ticket sales exceeded projections by $100,000, and season subscription sales by $40,000.

And individual donations are up, too. Kipe reports a 13 percent increase in new donors, as well as a 10 percent increase in lapsed donors returning to the giving fold.

“There seems to be a great sense of hope and optimism, and a little bit of curiosity around what we’re doing, which is great,” he said. “As we’ve come back and are working to rejuvenate the orchestra and rebuild, it’s wonderful to see community partners on the ticket and contributing revenue side agreeing to step in and help invest in our future.”

That sense of optimism is also reflected in season subscription sales for the upcoming season, which are currently 95 percent of the way to the organization’s goal. Kipe said the orchestra typically doesn’t reach that season sales goal until January. The new season launches September 6 with Abrams conducting Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and a brand new piece of his own.

“We’ll hopefully hit that goal before the season launches,” Kipe said. “The most important thing we do is get butts in seats. It’s the basis for everything else – donations, corporate donations, grants to some extent – all rely on making sure we’re reaching the largest number of people in our audiences.”

To do that, the orchestra is reaching out beyond its traditional home at the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall – though the cornerstone classics and pops seasons will continue there as always – with a revitalized  school concerts program and the new Music Without Borders program.

“We’re taking the orchestra out into the churches and synagogues and community centers around Louisville Metro and Southern Indiana to really reach people where they are,” Kipe said. “It’s a model we borrowed from the Detroit Symphony which did something similar after their bankruptcy a few years ago and had great success with that.”

Kipe credits Abrams’ vision with jump-starting the organization’s new commitment to make the orchestra a more prominent part of the community. Look for the orchestra’s guest soloists to make appearances at local pubs with Abrams, even, and a more conversational and casual approach to the Whitney Hall podium, too.

“As we layer all of these pieces on top of it, people will come to see the orchestra as a real partner in their daily lives, rather than a once-in-a-while special event,” he said.