The Minnesota Orchestra has raised $24 million toward its $40 million Orchestra Hall renovation. Michael Henson, president and CEO, told the orchestra's annual meeting Wednesday that $10 million was raised since September alone. In other financial highlights, the orchestra balanced its budget for the third consecutive year, even as total attendance declined, and ticket revenue rose 4.4 percent.

Artistically, the orchestra noted two recording initiatives, a European tour, a three-week Bernstein Festival and the premiere of Jazz Artistic Director Irvin Mayfield's "The Art of Passion."

The organization continues to cut expenses. Last March, the orchestra announced it would trim its budget by 7 percent. In August, musicians agreed to concessions projected to save about $4.2 million before their contract expires in 2012. Expenses for the year that ended in August were $32.5 million. The fiscal 2010 budget is $32 million.

In some cases, the retrenchment has had positive financial results. Henson noted that slimmed-down programming for Sommerfest and holiday series resulted in a net-return increase of $326,000 over the previous year. This year did not include free outdoor concerts and the Day of Music, both of which drew significant audiences in previous years.

"We must balance artistic initiative with fiscal responsibility," Henson said. "We're quite pleased with these results in a challenging year."

The orchestra in June announced it had hired KPBM, a Toronto architecture firm, to design the renovation and expansion of Orchestra Hall. Drawings are anticipated in the first few months of the new year. In addition to the private funds raised, the institution is making a request for state bonding authority to fund both the hall project and a renovation of Peavey Plaza. In June, the orchestra said it would seek $14 million from the state.

After years of experiencing red ink, the orchestra embarked on a program in 2004 to eliminate annual deficits. The margin again was razor thin -- $10,671.

Paid attendance was just over 270,000, compared to 274,000 in fiscal 2008. However, the percent of capacity was relatively stable at 71 percent because fewer concerts were offered.

Outgoing Board Chairman Jack Eugster cited several donations to the hall project. Two gifts of $3.5 million were given, one from the Ted and Roberta Mann Foundation and the other from an anonymous donor. Another $2 million anonymous gift was made, and Ken and B.J. Dahlberg gave $1 million.

Total net contributions to the organization reached $14.2 million, down 1.5 percent from the previous year. The fiscal year ended in August, which means the orchestra's investments saw severe valleys and then a significant rebound. Overall, investments fell 19.6 percent to just more than $137 million from about $171 million in fiscal 2008.

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299