The Charleston Symphony Orchestra ended its 2010-2011 season on an upbeat -- and is beginning the 2011-2012 season the same way.
Under the leadership of a reconstituted board fortified with business leaders who are committed to putting the restructured organization on a firm and sustainable footing, there is a reason to hope things will continue to improve.
The symphony, given up for dead by many last year because of its dire financial problems and labor disputes, has finished 2010-2011 in the black, and it has money on hand to cover expenses for several months.Executive Director Daniel Beckley said not only is that extraordinary for the CSO, it would be extraordinary for almost any orchestra.Mr. Beckley says the success demonstrates the community's renewed trust in the symphony.
It also is a testament to what a community can do when it pulls together. College of Charleston President George Benson and Blackbaud CEO Marc Chardon gathered more than 450 people to talk about the symphony in listening sessions, sparking increased giving and ticket sales.
As encouraging as the season's opening movement is, the second and third ones present fundraising challenges. The CSO wisely has hired a director of development to help coordinate board efforts to attract more contributions. And with a solid business plan, strong leadership and some enticing programming, CSO should be easier to sell to donors.
As part of the symphony's belt tightening, the core of musicians has been reduced to 24 but will be augmented regularly by musicians from around the Southeast and beyond. The cost will be significantly less than having a larger core of full-time musicians.
The number of performances in the series offered by CSO also has been reduced.
But Mr. Beckley says the season will have some additional single-ticket performances -- indoors and out -- and will feature some big names including Grammy winning pianist Emanuel Ax and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director JoAnn Falletta.
The concerts will be directed by a series of guest conductors until a new music director is named.
Four hundred and fifty people do not come out to talk about something that isn't important to them. The Charleston Symphony Orchestra is clearly an institution that residents value and that brings benefits to the area.
The board deserves support from the community as it works to make the season's closing concert an appropriate one: Mahler's "Resurrection Symphony."