This week, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Society Inc. board of trustees Chair John Yurtchuk presided over the organization’s first virtual annual meeting to announce preliminary financial results for the 2019-20 season, report progress in addressing financial challenges caused by COVID-19 pandemic, and to elect new trustees.
BPO Treasurer Ange Fatta reported the organization’s most recent fiscal year, Sept. 1, 2019, through Aug. 31, 2020, will finish with a balanced budget. Expenses totaled $11 million versus an original budget of $12 million. Sharp revenue losses from canceled concerts (tickets and contract fees) along with contributed revenue totaled nearly $2 million. Savings for artistic and concert production costs from the reduced performance schedule, along with major payroll support received through the CARES Act, offset the losses.
Yurtchuk said, “We are grateful to the many subscribers and donors of the BPO that helped us through this unprecedented time. The past six months have been taxing for everyone. We were fortunate to have been able to keep the staff and musicians on payroll through it all, thanks to our strong financial position and the CARES Act. However, the coming year will be even more challenging.”
2020-21 Outlook and Update
The BPO reported its operating budget with the reduced performance schedule is $9.7 million. Revenue projections are $8.6 million, based the loss of ticket revenue from canceled concerts, and reduced corporate and government support. The BPO is therefore bracing for a deficit of more than $1 million, but one that is significantly less than the $3 million gap forecasted earlier.
Executive Director Daniel Hart said, “The budget projections were quite sobering, and although our expenses were already much lower than the previous year, we had to do more. The BPO is pleased to announce ratification of an important COVID-19 side letter to the collective bargaining agreement with the musicians of the BPO that will help address the budget shortfall in a significant way.”
The CBA currently in effect, historic for the fact it spans six years, will now be modified to reduce the 2020-21 season from 40 to 35 weeks. The reduction of orchestra work weeks will result in a 12% savings on orchestra wages and benefits. When combined with similar budget savings from the administrative staff, the BPO will realize a savings of $1 million. Simultaneously, the BPO board of trustees has approved plans to dramatically increase fundraising efforts to close the gap even further.
Music Director JoAnn Falletta said, “The partnership we have between musicians, staff and board is really outstanding. We have all come together to do our part with the belief there are better times ahead. Despite the shut-down, we have been able to forge ahead artistically and educationally in ways we could not have imagined just six months ago. I am so proud of our team.”
“The musicians of the BPO are so proud and grateful to be a part of this community,” violist Kate Holzemer said. “The world stopped in March, but due to the hard work, dedication and generosity of so many people, the BPO never truly went dark. Although we had to stop performing, this organization never stopped working to get back on stage. We are so excited about the season to come. “
During the meeting, terms for trustees Cindy Abbott Letro, Doug Bean and Peter Eliopoulos were extended by one year. Robin Schulze, Alex Montante and Karen Sperrazza were reelected to a second three-year term, and Stephen Swift was elected to a new three-year term. Prior to the meeting, the board of trustees voted to retain the current officers: Yurtchuk, chair; Scott Stenclik, vice chair/chair-elect; Fatta, treasurer; and Eliopoulos, secretary.
A number of musicians were recognized for longtime service, and the BPO paid tribute to principal tuba Don Harry, who retired after 47 years with the BPO.
Musicians reaching milestones include violinist Richard Kay, 45 years; cellist Nancy Anderson, 40 years; principal flute Christine Davis and French horn Jay Matthews, 25 years; French horn Dan Sweeley, cellist David Schmude, and double bassist Edmond Gnekow, 20 years.
National Fuel was recognized as the Outstanding Corporate Partner of the Year for its long-term support of the BPO’s award-winning education programs.
‘BPOnDemand’ Virtual Concert Series
In addition to a review of 2019-20 accomplishments, Falletta also reported on “BPOnDemand”: “Until we can open Kleinhans Music Hall to our audiences, we are excited to offer our fans a new video-streamed performance series. Response to date has been very positive. I am proud of our Bernd Gottinger, our producer, the BPO musicians and our team for creating such exciting concert content.”
Each concert within the series will premiere on Saturdays at 8 p.m. and will remain available on-demand for 30 days. “BPOnDemand” performances are available for free to all 2020-21 subscribers, as well as those patrons near and far who wish to purchase a $10 virtual ticket on a concert-by-concert basis. Two different ticket bundle options are available (five concerts for $40 or all 12 for $100, plus applicable fees).
All concerts, September through December, will be streamed with no live audiences in Kleinhans Music Hall.
At this time, concerts January through June remain unchanged. BPO leadership continues to monitor the global situation and will make any further changes and announcements at the appropriate time, allowing for ample time to best accommodate the organization’s subscribers and patrons.