In its second full year after a damaging lockout of musicians, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra says it has passed the rebound stage and moved on to a path of stability and progress. The SPCO reported Tuesday that it had a balanced budget — its 20th in 22 years — in the fiscal year ended June 30.
The orchestra also reported its highest net ticket revenue ever, more than $1.54 million.
“It seems counterintuitive, but it has increased since we lowered ticket prices,” said marketing director Lindsey Thoreson Hansen.
The SPCO ended fiscal 2014-15 with a slim surplus of $17,155 after total expenses of $10.3 million, compared with $9.8 million the previous year and $11 million in 2011-12, the last full season before the six-month lockout that ended in April 2013.
The year was one of change for the SPCO, the only full-time chamber orchestra remaining in the country. The splashiest highlight was the March opening of the new Ordway Concert Hall, created primarily for the SPCO. Designed by top performance-space architect Tim Carl, now head of the firm HGA, the hall adjacent to the original, larger theater at the Ordway Center sold out every SPCO concert scheduled there.
An evolving lineup of internationally celebrated artistic partners and a revised management strategy that involves musicians in planning and leadership also contributed to growth in several key areas.
While the total number of donors remained flat (at just over 5,500), gifts to the orchestra’s annual fund grew by 5 percent. The average size of gifts increased, and the number of recurring monthly donors nearly doubled to 1,000, thanks in part to a matching gift challenge from the St. Paul-based Mardag Foundation.
The SPCO’s endowment remained at about $39.5 million, essentially unchanged from the previous year. The organization continues to report no long-term debt and says it will raise an additional $10 million through legacy giving by the end of fiscal 2017.
Adding luster to the year was the hiring of four new musicians and the addition of four all-star artistic partners: violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, pianist Jeremy Denk, violinist Pekka Kuusisto and and clarinetist Martin Fröst. One sobering setback was the announcement a month ago that Fröst had to cancel his anticipated November debut with the SPCO due to Meniere’s Disease, a disorder of the inner ear.
Since the fiscal year ended, the SPCO has signed a two-year contract extension for musicians and arranged a succession plan for president Bruce Coppock, who in January is retiring from the orchestra for the second time after returning two years ago to rebuild the organization. His duties will be taken over by the orchestra’s principal second violinist, Kyu-Young Kim, as artistic director and Jon Limbacher, a former SPCO vice president and chief operating officer, as president and managing director.