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Top 5 Orchestra Donations of All Time

By Michael Vincent on June 5, 2023

It’s official. Orchestras are now receiving more revenue from donations than ticket sales, a shift highlighted back in 2016 with a report by the League of American Orchestras.

The industry has also seen a shift in ticket-selling strategies, with subscription packages no longer being the primary source of revenue for the first time in 2013. Fast-forward a decade,  and this changing financial landscape, coupled with the declining presence of classical music in the broader culture, has only increased.

Diving into a symphony of generosity…

…let’s take a look at the five largest donations to orchestras in North America.

1.) San Diego Symphony: Joan and Irwin Jacobs made waves with a $120 million donation, the largest ever made to a symphony orchestra at that time. The funds were to be donated over a period of 10 years, with the remainder left as a bequest.

2.)  The Philadelphia Orchestra: A cool $55 million! This colossal donation, gifted by an anonymous donor-supervised fund, is the largest in the ensemble’s history. It’s especially noteworthy considering the orchestra’s past financial struggles​.

3.) The Cleveland Orchestra: A $50 million donation from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation made a massive impact. This generous gift, the largest in the orchestra’s 103-year history, will finance digital upgrades, an opera and humanities festival, and expanded programs. Bonus point: the concert hall got a new name.

4.)  Toronto Symphony Orchestra: The Beck family’s generous $10 million donation brought their lifetime giving to the TSO to over $20 million. The funds are to support key artistic initiatives and financial objectives, including deficit reduction and endowment growth.​

5.)  San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra: Last but not least, the orchestra recently received a high note of $2 million from the Paramo family. This gift, the largest in the orchestra’s 93-year history, goes straight into the endowments.

Michael Vincent
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