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Cleveland Orchestra Gets Record-Breaking $50 Million from Mandel Foundation

Franz Welser-Most conducts the orchestra
Roger Mastroianni
The Cleveland Orchestra
Franz Welser-Most conducts the orchestra in 2019. Much of the grant money from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation will be used to improve the orchestra's finances that have taken a significant hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cleveland Orchestra announced Thursday its biggest gift to date. The $50 million grant will help the century-old institution's financial picture as well as its plans for the future.

The funding comes from the Cleveland-based Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation. Orchestra CEO Andre Gremillet said more than $31 million of the money will help shore up the ensemble's endowment.

“This is by far the largest gift ever received by The Cleveland Orchestra,” he said. “It’s a clearly historic gift that really is for the long-term viability of the orchestra.”

In appreciation, the orchestra will name its main performance space the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Concert Hall. In addition, the orchestra is renaming Severance Hall. It will now be Severance Music Center. The change signals the building offers more than one performance space and can host various community events. 

The financial support comes at critical time as the orchestra has had to cut costs during the pandemic.

The remainder of the money will support an opera festival and bolster digital streaming capabilities. Gremillet said the orchestra plans to install robotic cameras in the auditorium to unobtrusively capture performances for those who can’t attend in person. This past season the orchestra produced a virtual concert series that subscribers could access through it’s Adella app. Asked whether that experiment had proven to be financially viable, Gremillet rated it a success, for now.

Adella has done the job in the first years in making sure that our patrons, our donors, our subscribers were getting value from us, even though they couldn't come to the hall,” he said. “So, in that way, it has worked really, really well financially. But the model for the future, we're working on, it is not simple. It has to work both from a mission standpoint and from a financial standpoint as well.”

Mandel Foundation CEO Jehuda Reinharz said the grant to the orchestra is double the amount of anything ever issued by his organization in its seven-decade history.

“It is critical, particularly at a time when the humanities are in many cases devalued by government agencies, state agencies,” Reinharz said. “We believe that the humanities are critical in any field, and there are not many organizations that support the humanities, unfortunately.”

The Cleveland Orchestra kicks off its new season at Severance Music Center Oct. 14. 

Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Concert Hall.
Roger Mastroianni
The Cleveland Orchestra
The orchestra's main performance space has been named the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Concert Hall in appreciation of the foundation for the grant. 

Copyright 2021 WCPN. To see more, visit WCPN.

David C. Barnett is a senior reporter/producer who focuses on arts and cultural stories.