By Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
Maybe it was booking appearances by such international sensations as pianist Lang Lang, who visited in October. But the Cleveland Orchestra under music director Franz Welser-Most, shown conducting, attracted more youthful concertgoers in its last fiscal year, according to its annual report, which was released Tuesday. (Roger Mastroianni)
Like a Bruckner symphony or Wagner opera, the good news from the Cleveland Orchestra's latest annual report just goes on and on.
For the second year in a row, the group Tuesday released a document revealing almost nothing but positive developments. In fiscal 2014, the orchestra posted a sizable surplus, a vastly larger endowment, record fundraising and some of its healthiest attendance figures ever.
"We had an extraordinary season, and not just financially," said outgoing executive director Gary Hanson, noting that his goal of leaving the orchestra in better shape than he found it when he retires next year is now "within reach."
Hold on to your jaw. It's about to drop. The main number of interest in the 31-page report is $941,000, the amount the institution recorded as surplus.
That's right. After years of fighting to balance its books, at a time when some orchestras are struggling simply to survive, Cleveland this year came out with nearly $1 million extra. The last year that happened was 2001.
Against the orchestra's budget of $48.7 million, $941,000 may seem a trifling amount. Less than 2 percent. In light of its recent shortfalls, however, and those of other ensembles, the figure is hugely significant.
Perhaps even more notable: the surplus came despite a wave of free and discounted tickets. Pushing ahead with its popular "Under 18s Free" and Student Advantage deals, the orchestra in 2014 hosted its 100,000th youngster.
Paid attendance by college-age students rose 50 percent, Hanson said, while some 22,000 listeners under age 18 – twice as many as last year – attended for free with older, paying customers.
Financial stability is one thing, Hanson said, but "It's even greater to have real indications of a bright future, both for the institution and the art form."
The endowment also grew by leaps and bounds. As of June 30, the orchestra's reserve was worth just over $172 million, an all-time record and over $22 million more than last year.
No longer, in other words, does the orchestra's unofficial goal of a $300 million endowment, on which a small draw would cover the standard gap between revenue and expenses, seem overly ambitious. The previous record, in fiscal 2000, was $159 million.
"For me, this represents a lot of progress," said Dennis LaBarre, president of the Musical Arts Association, the orchestra's governing body. "I'm as pleased as I can be with what we've achieved to date."
Along with these came growth in overall attendance. While the average audience at Severance Hall increased slightly to about 1,600, the figure at Blossom Music Center jumped a dramatic 11 percent to a record 7,050, fueled in part by a Beatles tribute, an appearance by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and a free night led by music director Franz Welser-Most, courtesy of the Cleveland Foundation.
Read the entire story at cleveland.com.