Financially Troubled Philadelphia Orchestra Announces Millions in Donations

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - 09:10 PM

The Philadelphia Orchestra has been called the Rolls Royce of orchestras, but lately it has experienced more trials than a recalled subcompact.

The 111-year-old orchestra, which filed for bankruptcy protection in April, announced an aid package potentially worth $45 million on Wednesday. The funds could take a significant dent out of the orchestra’s five-year drive to raise $160 million and enable it to climb out of a deep financial crisis that threatens its existence.

The funding comprises only $11.2 million in outright gifts and pledges, with the promise of an extra $16.3 in matching grants if the orchestra raises an additional $17.5 million by the end of the year.

In a statement released Wednesday, the orchestra said that the $11.2 million came from a number of charitable organizations and philanthropists including the William Penn, Wyncote and Neubauer Family foundations, Gerry Lenfest and members of the orchestra’s board.

The announcement of the new funding comes just two months after the orchestra filed for bankruptcy, citing a $5 million deficit on a budget of $46 million. The orchestra blames the musicians' pension costs as well as skyrocketing rent at the Kimmel Center, the orchestra’s concert venue. As with many large American orchestras, Philadelphia has grappled with declining ticket sales and donations and a shrinking endowment over the last decade.

Even with the current pledges, the orchestra still has to raise another chunk of money in order to exit bankruptcy, the orchestra’s attorney told the Wall Street Journal. But if fundraising continues to improve, the orchestra hopes to file a plan that will enable it to exit bankruptcy by the end of the year. In the meantime, it’s also shopping around for a bankruptcy loan.

In 2012, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (below) will become the eighth music director to lead the Philadelphia Orchestra in its storied 111-year history.

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Comments [7]

Michael Meltzer

When politicians do the right thing, it's usually for the wrong reasons. We became accustomed to a comfortable cushion from the N.E.A. during the Cold War, but Congress was simply trying to subsidize orchestras and ballet companies who could induce Russians to defect. When the Cold War ended, Congress (both parties) lost interest, we blamed the conservatives, but we were wrong. It was a permanent cut in funding.
Now, it would behoove Congress to look at the enormous American good will among the Chinese that U.S.educational opportunity in classical music for Chinese music students has generated. They all want to come here to study, and they go back with a very friendly and nostalgiac attitude toward America. American classical music is powerful diplomatic and intercultural tool, so if Congress needs a good "wrong reason," classical music is good international business.

Jul. 08 2011 04:11 AM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

Concetta Nardone....La Verita! Grazie!

Jun. 27 2011 03:07 PM
Concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

Most of the people who object to public funding of the arts have no problem with the trillions being spent by our war machine.

Jun. 27 2011 10:08 AM
Frank Feldman

The mission of the organization is to give the public what it is craving. Perhaps that extends beyond the same four Brahms symphonies, et al., now that we're squarely in the 21st century.

Jun. 24 2011 10:49 PM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

There is good news/bad news here. Fiscal conservatives will now say "See, we told you, they can survive without public funding!" They will continue to chop away at public funding for these worthy causes thinking some white knight will come to the rescue. And if not, they don't care.

That puts all orchestras on a track for constant fund drives. That's a grind that takes away from the real mission of the organization.

Jun. 24 2011 08:48 AM

I'm encouraged to learn the fabulous Philadelphians' future is looking up. I spend much of my free time and money going to and from Philadelphia enjoying their city and their orchestra. It's a nice 90-minute ride on Amtrak to hear one of our American treasures.

Jun. 23 2011 03:32 PM
David from Flushing

This is not the first time that the Philadelphia Orchestra has found itself in financial distress. The orchestra came within days of closing in March 1909 and only an appropriation of $15,000 from the City of Philadelphia kept it going. The newspapers of the time mention that orchestras in New York and Pittsburgh already had their eyes on some of the Philadelphia musicians.

While Philadelphia is a far nicer place today than it was 10-20 years ago, I wonder whether the audience would prefer a concert venue in the suburbs with parking to Center City. Philadelphia is not New York City when it comes to the population that supports the arts. In the same way shopping moved from Market Street out to King of Prussia, perhaps the orchestra needs to consider where their customers live.

Jun. 23 2011 11:18 AM

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