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St. Louis Symphony reports budget surplus for second year in a row

Gemma New conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in Pines of Rome in March 2018.
St. Louis Symphony
Gemma New conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in “Pines of Rome” in March.";s:

For the second consecutive year, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is reporting an operating budget surplus.

The symphony finished the 2018 fiscal year with $490,000. In 2017, it had an $18,000 surplus. The institution attributes the increase to a boost in giving, income from touring and spending less than anticipated.

A number of other factors also contributed to the surplus, including increased ticket sales, according to Symphony’s president and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard.

“The more you grow your audience pool, the more people you have to engage and to have a relationship and a conversation about philanthropy,” Bernard said.

Historic factors

In fiscal year 2018, operating expenses totaled $30.4 million, while total operating revenue was $30.9 million.

Individual giving grew 5 percent and total ticket revenue increased by 5.5 percent. Live at Powell Hall concert sales grew by 9.2 percent.

Marie-Hélène Bernard has been the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's President and CEO since 2015.
Celeste Golder Boyer

While this year’s gains are meaningful, the $40 million challenge grant the family of Enterprise Holdings founder Jack Taylor made in 2000 also continues to make a difference, Bernard said.

“It is a factor that is one of the drivers of the success today,” Bernard said.

Another historic factor has been the popularity of David Robertson.

“The music director has a very important role,” she said.

At the end of last season, Robertson left the orchestra after 13 years. New music director Stéphane Denève makes his conducting debut on Nov. 11.

“He is every bit as charismatic as David Robertson,” Bernard said. “I think these transitions are also opportunities to reconnect to the community and this is this is a very exciting time for us.”

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

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