Grand Rapids Symphony Balances Budget, Sustains Programming for 2009-10

Thu, 12/16/2010

Increased Fundraising, Aggressive Cost Reductions Support Positive Financial Result

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., December 16, 2010 – At a time when arts organizations across the country are struggling, the Grand Rapids Symphony posted a balanced budget for 2009-10 through a combination of increased fundraising and aggressive cost reduction.

The Symphony maintained its broad range of performances, collaborative work and educational programs while reducing more than 6 percent, or approximately $550,000, from its operating budget, compared with the previous season. The organization met or exceeded key goals outlined in its operational plan for 2009-10 in the areas of concert income, annual campaign, private support and other initiatives.

The announcement of a balanced budget follows the recent release of the orchestra’s 12th recording and an extension of Music Director David Lockington’s tenure through the 2012-13 season. Lockington has served in this role for more than a decade, during which the orchestra has achieved new heights of artistic excellence, earning a Grammy Award nomination and performing in Carnegie Hall. The Symphony has also expanded its efforts to serve the diverse West Michigan community through programs such as the annual Symphony with Soul event.

“The guidance of our board of directors, the continued support of the community and efforts to reduce expenses have enabled us to maintain the quality and scope of our programs while continuing to move down the path of fiscal sustainability,” said Symphony President and CEO Peter Kjome. “Despite often severe financial challenges, we have been able to deliver a balanced budget for the 2009-10 season.

“Our musicians, artistic leadership and administrative staff have contributed greatly to these results, which are all the more remarkable in light of the current economic environment in Michigan. We remain committed to ongoing efforts to maintain the level of concerts and educational programs that serve Grand Rapids and the larger West Michigan community.”

Artistic accomplishments for the 2009-10 season include:

  • Presenting more than 400 performances touching the lives of more than 170,000 in the region, ranging from the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series in the Symphony’s home at DeVos Performance Hall to educational concerts in the schools
  • Collaborating with other arts organizations in the community, including Opera Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Ballet and the Gilmore Festival
  • Sponsoring the Symphony Chorus, Youth Symphony and Symphony Youth Choruses
  • Providing comprehensive education programs that reached young people from 15 counties across West Michigan
  • Presenting the orchestra’s first annual art-inspired commission during the inaugural year of the ArtPrize competition

The total expenses of the Grand Rapids Symphony for the 2009-10 season ending August 31, 2010 were $8.2 million, a reduction of more than 6 percent versus the 2008-09 season. The orchestra posted a positive operating result of $65,941, or 0.8 percent of total expenses, reflecting cost reductions of $556,112 versus the previous season.

“During the season, the Grand Rapids Symphony faced significant reductions in the grant support we receive from the state and a decline in investment income, both of which put pressure on maintaining revenues at the prior year’s level,” Kjome said. “Efforts to broaden the organization’s base of donors, increase ticket sales and pursue initiatives in the organization’s strategic plan helped offset these reductions, resulting in a slight increase in total revenues.”

Kjome credited cost reductions in several areas as important factors in reducing overall expenses. Financial highlights from the current season include:

  • Increased concert income versus last season, a result of imaginative programming supported by cost-effective marketing
  • Reductions in costs related to artistic personnel and concert productions
  • Collaboration with Symphony guest artists, vendors and others to reduce overall expenses
  • Reductions in administrative and general costs, including reduced salaries of all Symphony personnel
  • Increases in the Symphony’s annual campaign and total private support
  • Two challenge grants totaling $400,000 to provide vital support for fundraising efforts

“We were very pleased and grateful to achieve our revenue objectives for both concert income and private support,” said Symphony Board Chair Larry Robson. “These results are due to the strong support of our community and the efforts of our board, endowment trustees, women’s committee and others working hard for our Symphony.

“The increased fundraising and improved results by our staff and the Development Committee, led by Co-Chairs Tim O’Donovan and Peter Perez, were important factors last season. This work is continuing and is so important to the future of our orchestra.”

Crucial Efforts are Ongoing for 2010-11

Kjome noted that the Symphony Board approved a five-year strategic plan in 2009 that provides key initiatives and a financial roadmap for the organization through 2014.

“Our strategic plan is rooted in a vision of providing more value for our community,” he said. “Board members, musicians, staff and other community leaders are actively involved in work focused on areas such as education and community engagement.

“It is gratifying to all of us to report positive financial results that have been achieved because of the ongoing commitment of our key stakeholders. While we will face extremely difficult economic challenges going forward, we remain focused on efforts to maintain and improve the quality and scope of our performances and educational programs.”


The Grand Rapids Symphony was officially organized in 1930 and is recognized as one of America’s leading regional orchestras. Led by Music Director David Lockington, eight concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are presented each year, touching the lives of some 170,000. Nearly half of those who benefit are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities reached through extensive education and community service programs. The Symphony sponsors the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses, and also provides the orchestra for Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit

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