Strong ticket sales, attendance and subscription renewal rates were among the highlights announced at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association’s annual meeting, held Oct. 26 at Buntrock Hall in Symphony Center. Helen Zell, chair of the CSOA Board of Trustees, and CSOA President Jeff Alexander presented artistic and financial highlights of the 2015-16 season, which commemorated the CSO’s 125th anniversary.
The CSOA also reported a deficit of $1.1 million on operating expenses of $73 million during the fiscal year of July 1, 2015, to June 30, down from the previous fiscal year’s deficit of $1.3 million on operating expenses of $72.7 million.
“Last season’s 125th anniversary celebration reminded us that we are part of the living history of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,” Zell said. She also thanked Music Director Riccardo Muti, CSO musicians, patrons, staff, donors and volunteers “for their exceptional commitment to the CSO during this anniversary year.”
“As we reflect on the remarkable artistic moments from this historic season, we recognize that the musical relationship between Riccardo Muti and the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra continues to result in music making at the highest artistic level,” Alexander said. He also lauded the anniversary season’s retrospective of works performed by the CSO in their U.S. or world premieres and the landmark performance in April of Verdi’s Falstaff, “all of which anticipates the great performances we can expect to hear from this orchestra for the next 125 years and beyond.”
Four CSO musicians — oboist Alex Klein, violinist Aiko Noda, violist Wei-Ting Ku0 and cellist Daniel Katz — performed a work by Mozart. After their short performance, each of the players addressed the crowd. Klein, who recently rejoined the CSO as principal oboe after a 12-year hiatus triggered by the neurological disorder of focal dystonia, extolled the CSO’s 125 years of tradition. He pointed out that legacy of the CSO’s great music directors, going back to Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock, can be heard in the orchestra’s concerts even today. “The CSO has a commitment to excellence that’s second to none,” he said.
His time away has amazed him about “how much better the orchestra sounds 12 years later,” he said. “We’re always a little bit better.” And he promised: “You have not yet heard the best of us. We will play even better next time.”
Also at the meeting, the CSOA announced:
• Ticket sales of nearly $22.2 million, with more than 349,000 tickets sold for 218 CSOA-presented concerts. The $22.2 million total marked a slight decrease from the previous fiscal year, which featured more concerts, 233, and ticket sales of $22.7 million.
• Record ticket revenues for CSO Main subscription series of more than $15.4 million and the SCP PowerShares QQQ Piano series of more than $700,000, with single-ticket sales for the CSO Main series at a record $6 million.
• Average paid capacity for the CSO Main series at 80 percent.
• A subscription renewal rate for the CSO Main series of 90 percent, among the highest rates for a major U.S. orchestra.
• Additional revenue of $9.6 million from tour fees, merchandise sales, space rentals, royalties, recording fees and miscellaneous activities.
• Total attendance of 460,000 for CSOA performances and events at Symphony Center and other area venues, including more than 125 Concerts in the Community, offered free of charge, as part of the CSO’s 125th anniversary celebration.
• Over-all contributed revenue of approximately $40 million.
• General operating support of $26.1 million, including approximately $18.5 million in individual gifts, $5.5 million in corporate sponsorships and partnerships, and more than $2.1 million in foundation and government grants.
• Operating revenues of $71.9 million, with operating expenses at $73 million, resulting in an operating deficit of $1.1 million, or 1.5 percent of operations.
• Endowment gifts of $9.4 million, with total endowment value of $271 million.
• Total assets of $489 million, and net assets of $247 million.
• Charitable donations by more than 12,390 individuals, with 10,799 of that total supporting the CSOA’s Annual Fund.
• First-time donations by nearly 3,690 individuals while 1,281 lapsed donors returned to the rolls.
Election of officers and trustees
• Elected as CSOA officers were Helen Zell, chair; Mary Louise Gorno, Robert A. Kohl and Paul R. Wiggin, vice chairs, and W. Robert Reum, treasurer.
• Six individuals were elected to their first three-year terms on the Board of Trustees: M. Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University; Marion Cameron, Sipi Metals Corp.; David Casper, BMO Harris Bank; George P. Colis, Oxford Bank & Trust; Beth Mannino, SilverPepper Funds (retired); Scott Swanson, PNC Bank.
• Four new Life Trustees were elected: Mary Louise Gorno, Ingenuity International; Ling Markovitz, civic leader; John Pratt, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Penny Van Horn, arts patron.
• Nine Trustees were re-elected to additional three-year terms, and 32 new Governing Members were appointed. Twenty-four individuals with 30 years (or more) of service on the Board of Trustees were acknowledged.