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Arts & Culture

Cleveland Orchestra reinstates pay after COVID-19 cuts and reports balanced budget

Roger Mastroianni
/
The Cleveland Orchestra
The Cleveland Orchestra performing in 2019

Despite the financial hit of the pandemic for nearly 20 months, the Cleveland Orchestra announced Tuesday it has balanced its books for the third year in a row.

The orchestra ended its fiscal year in the black after trimming annual costs from $48 million to $37 million. The bottom-line boost came from local donations, federal dollars, savings from canceled concerts and pay cuts across the organization.

Orchestra CEO André Gremillet said that the decision was made upfront to cut salaries instead of cutting jobs.

“The people who are here are here to stay,” he said. “Everybody is now back to full pay. It was a long time, you know, since April 2020, so, that was a great, great moment for all of us.”

The launch of a new season in October brought with it the promise of further steps towards normalcy, though Gremillet acknowledged that uncertainty is the key word in everything the orchestra does, these days.

“We're playing normal concerts with the full orchestra on stage. And hopefully we'll have an audience that's significant,” he said. “People are taking their time to come back, you know, people are still concerned. But we think that by the time we get to the second half of the season, that things will be certainly closer to normal.”

In addition to a full season at home, the orchestra also plans to resume its touring schedule, with visits to Miami, New York and Europe in the works for 2022. Further experimentation with video streaming will continue in the new year as well, thanks in part to a $50-million grant from the Mandel Foundation. The majority of those funds are targeted towards building up the orchestra’s endowment.

The announcement of that gift in late September prompted a few local critics to question that amount of financial support going to a single institution in a time when many have financial challenges.

“Every need is important in this city, obviously. And we believe that what we do in the culture and what we do for this community is very important,” Gremillet said. “And I think we heard about this a lot during this pandemic, how essential what we were doing was – from bringing our music to our community, to our education programs, to our partnerships with many other institutions.”

Gremillet said he sees the Mandel grant as a mandate to continue that work.

“We need to make a difference in this community and we believe we do,” he said. “And we believe we can do even more in the coming years.”

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