Bolstered by a successful fundraising campaign and a new contract with its musicians, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will be hiring fourteen additional musicians over the next four years, the New York Times reports.
Unlike many performing arts organizations that have spent heavily from their endowments in the face of mounting deficits, labor strife, and dwindling audiences, the orchestra has managed in recent years to maintain a 5 percent spending rate and expects to reduce that to 4.5 percent by 2020. It's a significant turnaround for an organization that had seen its endowment shrink from $92.7 million in 1999 to $56 million a decade later. "We didn't have enough cash to make the next payroll," Trey Devey, who became the orchestra's president in 2009, told the Times.
While the orchestra has sold out many more shows in recent seasons and attendance has grown, it is still projected to average only 69 percent of capacity this season at its home, the Music Hall, which seats 3,417. A $125 million renovation of the hall planned for the 2016-17 season poses its own challenges. But orchestra officials believe the steps they have taken in recent years, such as reducing personnel costs by 15 percent in 2009, helped attract philanthropic support that has put the organization on a more solid footing. Despite an $85 million fund established in late 2009 by Louise Nippert to assist local performing arts organizations, the symphony still faced a large unfunded pension liability, which it addressed through a negotiated delay on a promised raise for musicians.
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