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Arts & Culture

Cleveland Orchestra's Deficit Swelled for the Second Consecutive Year

photo of Franz Welser-Most and the Cleveland Orchestra
ROGER MASTROIANNI
/
THE CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA
The Cleveland Orchestra released its 2016-17 annual report on Tuesday. The organization's last reported surplus was for the 2014-15 season.

The Cleveland Orchestra’s annual report shows the organization has taken a significant financial hit over the past year.

The orchestra’s endowment is at a record high, but the money it draws from the endowment each year is not enough to cover the deficit, which has now doubled to $4 million. The orchestra also had fewer annual donations and didn’t make as much money from its residency in Miami, Fla. Earlier this year, the orchestra announced it would cut its Miami program from four weeks to two in response to donors who, according to Executive Director Andre Gremillet, "moved on."

Only 5 percent of the orchestra's endowment can go toward funding operations. The rest is off limits, and Gremillet says the orchestra board wants to keep it that way.

“We’re in this for the very long term," Gremillet said. "It’s very important that we be fiscally responsible and that we don’t use money for the endowment to fund our operations.”

The orchestra also recently saw a 26 percent cut in funding from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, whose grants are funded by the county's cigarette tax. Gremillet says that will hurt efforts to close the financial gap.

“Obviously it’s a good thing that fewer people are smoking," Gremillet said. "But we need to think in the long term about how to replace that source of funding because what this orchestra does for Cleveland and northeast Ohio is huge in terms of contributing to the community.”

Gremillet pointed out the orchestra does not lose money on student tickets, whose discounted prices are offset by philanthropic dollars. He says at the average concert a decade ago, fewer than 7 of every 10 seats were occupied by a paying ticketholder. Now, paying patrons occupy 8 out of 10 seats on average. Gremillet, who was appointed to succeed former Executive Director Gary Hanson in 2015, hopes the orchestra’s growing audience will encourage more donors.