On Heels of Report About Pending Insolvency, Dallas Symphony Announces New "Action Plan"

I was about to write up a little something about the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's "new business plan," announced via press release moments ago, when I espied this report from KERA's Jerome Weeks, which says that the DSO will tap out its line of credit by February at the latest and is nearing insolvency. That, writes Weeks, is based on something Dallas Symphony Board Chairman Blaine Nelson told a group of donors last night. Nelson told Weeks later, during a follow-up interview:

"We have a line of credit for $11 million, and that's guaranteed by our foundation assets. However, our foundation has only given us permission to draw on that line of credit up to $8 million and it's estimated that we will be at or exceed that $8 million by sometime either in January or February."
I made a few calls and was told that Nelson's comments last night were merely intended to get the attention of folks holding thick wallets and heavy purses. "It's business as usual," I was told. Except, no. Not quite.

What you'll see on the other side is the DSO's release, a rather upbeat doc touting an "action plan designed to sustain a secure, vibrant and exciting future for the Dallas Symphony." Which will entail cutting classical performances (from 21 weeks' worth to 16) and further reducing operating expenses. Today's announcement comes just two months after the DSO announced that it had cut more than $1 million from its 2011-'12 budget by eliminating staff positions and instituting a wage freeze. Says Nelson in today's announcement, the board's new "action plan will create a sustainable future that extends the superb quality DSO has achieved, increases community support and lays a stronger foundation for fundraising efforts."

I was also told today that the previously announced Great Orchestra Campaign, intended to raise $50 million to offset the DSO's deficit, has been put on hold while the board interviews potential permanent president candidates.



Plan Maintains Artistic Excellence while Reducing Costs,

Increasing Revenue and Community Appearances

Dallas, TX (Nov. 9, 2011) - The Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) today announced a new business model and action plan designed to sustain a secure, vibrant and exciting future for the Dallas Symphony.

The new model provides an approach that can sustain the new level of artistic excellence has achieved under Maestro Jaap van Zweden, by adjusting DSO operations to the realities of the 21st century. The plan will reduce operating expenses in a way that protects artistic quality, boosts revenues and increases the Orchestra's outreach into the community.

Maestro van Zweden was recently recognized as America's best conductor by Musical America, which cited the increased performance artistry achieved by DSO under his direction.

"The DSO Executive Board enthusiastically approved a new plan, which we are already putting in place," said Blaine L. Nelson, Chairman. "This action plan will create a sustainable future that extends the superb quality DSO has achieved, increases community support and lays a stronger foundation for fundraising efforts."

The plan involves devising a new business model better attuned to the 21st century arts environment. Key elements include:

· Adjusting the number of performances starting next season, to better balance the number of Meyerson concerts with community demand - 62 Classical and 24 Pops performances;

· Providing the same number of concerts conducted by Maestro van Zweden and Marvin Hamlisch as originally planned;

· Extending DSO's reach into the community with more community concerts, such as ones planned for the Allen ISD Performing Arts Center, scheduled for next year;

· Providing more community organizations with opportunities to sponsor special events like one Fluor Corp. has arranged for its stakeholders next year;

· Increasing DSO's highly popular music education programs for children and adults; and

· Increasing DSO's collaboration with other arts organizations so more can enjoy DSO's superb music.

"Like many arts organizations, we have been affected by the financial wave that has hit arts funding across the U.S.," said Nelson. "Orchestras throughout the country are realizing that a new business model is required for the 21st century, and recent deficits indicate we are no exception."

"We've been listening to what the community is telling us, so our new plan better aligns our performance schedules with attendance patterns," said David Hyslop, Interim President and CEO. "Starting next season, after making schedule adjustments, we will be able to accommodate all of our patrons who attend the Meyerson, reducing expenses while making the orchestra available for more concerts and special events out in the community."

"Given the fiscal restraints challenging orchestras across the country, a new approach is needed. Our new business plan addresses that," Nelson said.

"We've reduced staff, cut other expenses, implemented wage freezes and secured a practical contract with our musicians, and now we're doing more with a new business model that can serve as a catalyst for a sustainable future," Nelson said.

"Inspired by this plan, many of our Board and Executive Committee members are already substantially increasing their giving to the Symphony. But to truly succeed, we need support from our donors, subscribers and the community at large," Nelson said.

With this new plan for sustainability in place, we're also asking our supporters to make attending concerts and giving to the Symphony a top priority," Nelson said. "Our commitment to make the Dallas Symphony a leading orchestra and ambassador for our city is stronger than ever."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky