"Balance" is the operative word here, because the SSO teetered last season just about on the line between red and black. Board Chair Susan Hutchison presided over the organization's annual meeting on the stage at Benaroya Hall yesterday afternoon, and Treasurer Brian McGee gave the numbers:
So they didn't add to the cumulative debt, but reduced it only from $3,203,000 to $3,200,000. Ticket sales were strong this year-it was a record-breaking season both overall (at $12,103,000) and for subscriptions, over 34,000 (and sales for this season, in its second week, are already $71,000 over budget projections). But fundraising was down, and the budget was only balanced thanks to a desperate spring push that raised $2.5 million by June. Hutchison presented a list of 23 donors (mostly private, some corporate) to this category called "extraordinary funding."
There were some interesting moments of frankness among the business. Hutchison admitted the difficulty the SSO had in finding someone to take over the Executive Director position until they found Thomas Pillion this year; several candidates had turned down the job when they looked at the SSO's bottom line. And players' rep Michael Crusoe spoke eloquently, if slightly uneasily, of the musicians' sacrifices and devotion over the years, drawing on an institutional memory going back to his hiring in 1980. "I would be negligent if I did not acknowledge that there were leadership concerns" among the players, he said, referring to their increasingly polarized attitude toward longtime music director Gerard Schwarz. He closed with (this time I quote from memory): "The success of an orchestra is in direct proportion to how much the Board values the players."