ShareThis Page

With $1.5 million deficit, Pittsburgh Symphony at 'critical crossroad'

| Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, 10:27 p.m.
Pittsburgh Symphony
Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony

Pittsburgh Symphony is at a “critical crossroad,” said President Malia Tourangeau on Monday as she urged approval of more than $1.4 million from the Regional Asset District.

Despite exceeding budget goals for the 2015-16 season in earned and contributed income, the orchestra will post a $1.5 million deficit for the season ending Aug. 31, she said.

The symphony requested grants of $1.4 million for operating expenses and $150,000 for capital expenses.

Although Tourangeau expressed confidence the symphony could get back to black ink, she said it faces two challenges this season that will cost it $1.2 million: the expiration of its agreement with Pittsburgh Cultural Trust for the Broadway Series and contributions from a donor.

Cultural Trust President Kevin McMahon, who was present for the RAD meeting at the Koppers Building, Downtown, said the expiration of the Broadway Series contract with the symphony doesn't indicate the relationship is ending. Four shows will be presented at Heinz Hall in the coming season as planned, but there will be no guarantee of how many shows will be booked in future seasons.

Tourangeau noted the symphony's pension fund needs at least $10.4 million over the next five years.

In documents submitted for its RAD application, the symphony projects a deficit of $1.56 million for the upcoming 2016-17 season, with expenses of $31.8 million and revenue of $30.2 million. The projection includes receiving the full requested amount from RAD.

Symphony projections are limited, Tourangeau said, because it is negotiating a new contract with musicians to replace the one that will expire Sept. 4.

In answer to a question from board vice chairman Dan Griffin, she offered no defense or explanation of musician compensation. Instead, she asserted that 70 percent of Pittsburgh Symphony's expenses areartistic and 30 percent administrative and for operating Heinz Hall. For most other major orchestras, the relationship is reversed.

The symphony's $150,000 capital grant request is to partially fund installation of a fiber optic cable infrastructure for HD video and other multi-mode digital information, flat screen interactive signage to replace current static poster board signs around the hall, and creation of an additional storage area. A $250,000 Allegheny County grant request for the capital improvements is pending.

The RAD documents reveal that symphony board chairman emeritus Dick Simmons has restructured the remaining portion of his family trust's $29.5 million gift to be paid out in annual $1 million amounts for 12 years — half of which may be used for immediate expenses.

Mark Kanny is the Tribune-Review classical music critic. Reach him at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.