Minnesota Orchestra announces $13.2 million in gifts

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 27, 2014 - 11:15 PM

Minnesota Orchestra gets $13.2 million in four gifts.

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Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis on Feb. 7, 2014, ready for the first concert by the Minnesota Orchestra in 20 months.

Photo: DAVID JOLES • djoles@startribune.com,

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The Minnesota Orchestra, emerging from a financial crisis and a historic labor lockout, had good news on Wednesday when the board said it has received $13.2 million in four separate donations.

All given anonymously, the donations include a single $10 million “leadership gift.” Three other donors contributed the additional $3.2 million.

“These donors have made clear their confidence in the orchestra and have recognized the importance of offering support for both the present and future needs of the organization,” said board Chairman Gordon Sprenger.

Most of the $10 million donation will go to the orchestra’s Building for the Future Endowment. That fund was started three years ago to augment the orchestra’s general endowment.

A portion of the gift also will go to artistic initiatives, beginning with the season that opens in September.

One of the other three donations, a gift of $1.2 million, will be used for the Future endowment fund and the new season; $1 million will go the Future endowment and $1 million has not been designated yet by the donor. The Future endowment fund had a balance of $14.6 million, according to the 2012-13 annual report. That amount is part of a current orchestra endowment of $163 million.

The $10 million gift is one of the largest in recent Orchestra history. It is comparable to recent large donations to other arts organizations. Those gifts, though, generally involved capital projects.

Still recovering

The donations become part of the orchestra’s continuing recovery from large annual deficits and a bitter lockout. Administration leadership is changing, and board leaders are encouraging community groups to get involved in fundraising and auxiliary programming.

In July, musicians, staff, board members and community volunteers raised nearly $290,000 for the 2014 Guaranty Fund. Sommerfest concerts played to 86 percent paid capacity. The orchestra’s fiscal year ends on Sunday.

Kevin Smith, who officially takes over as interim president and CEO next Monday, said in an interview earlier this week that the fiscal 2014 deficit is expected to be less than $1 million on a budget of $21 million. Those figures are preliminary and unaudited. Smith will lead the organization until a permanent successor is found to replace Michael Henson, who officially leaves the orchestra on Sunday. The board had accepted Henson’s resignation in February with the caveat that he work to the end of the fiscal year. Smith has been on the job since July 1 in a transition period.

He said at the time that he expects next year’s budget to be about $29 million, a figure that was approved by the board Wednesday.

Expenses hit $32.4 million in fiscal 2009, before being cut back in recent years. The orchestra had taken stiff withdrawals from its endowment to balance the budget in both 2009 and 2010. In 2011, the orchestra reported a deficit of $2.9 million. That more than doubled in the 2012 results.

The past two years have been anomalies because of the 16-month lockout, which wiped out the 2012-13 season and the first five months of the 2013-14 season.

The new season opens in a remodeled Orchestra Hall with a fundraising gala on Sept. 5. “Starry, Starry Night” will feature soprano Renée Fleming, with Osmo Vänskä conducting the orchestra. Top tickets of $1,000 have been sold out. There are still tickets available, priced from $75 to $500. Certain price points include access to exclusive chamber concerts (at later dates) and receptions.

In addition, the orchestra’s 2014 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance will be unveiled at the gala.

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299

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