The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has released the reports from its Annual General Meeting, held on September 29, 2022. Among the highlights was the elimination of a deficit that accumulated over four decades.
The TSO recorded an accumulated surplus — the orchestra’s first since 1979 — of $781K.
The story of financial responsibility is also one of making choices. One of the upsides to the pandemic is that the funds allocated for cancelled productions could be utilized in other areas, including paying down debt. Other details emerge from the numbers.
Ticket sales took a heavy hit from COVID shutdowns, including the first half of the 2021-2022 season, which recorded one of the lowest ticket sales in the orchestra’s recent history. The season didn’t begin until November, and then only to limited capacity audiences, leading to another two-month closure at the beginning of 2022.
During her report, Board Chair Catherine Beck acknowledged the uncertainties of the last season.
“For all the challenges we faced and opportunities we created over the past 100 years,” explained Ms. Beck, “nothing compares to the context in which our musicians and staff performed last season, and I am confident in saying that the experience of hearing live symphonic music in a concert hall has never been as vital and uplifting to our audiences as it was in 2021/22.”
A look at subscriptions and tickets sales vs production expenses, comparing financial statements going back a few years, charts both rising production costs and the toll of COVID shutdowns:
- 2016: 8.6M vs. 18.4M
- 2017: 8.4M vs. 19.6M
- 2018: 9.8M vs. 20.4M
- 2019: 10M vs. 18.5M
- 2020: 6.7M vs. 16M
- 2021: 208K vs. 10.7M
- 2022: 5.7M vs. 16M
Emerging leaner and in a better financial position after an unprecedented situation like the COVID pandemic is a lemons into lemonade situation.
“It feels fitting that we enter our next century with a clean slate and better positioned to weather the challenges to come as we collectively rebuild and adjust to our post-pandemic reality,” noted Chief Executive Officer Mark Williams in a statement.
Highlights of the Season
There were highlights along with the realities of a global pandemic, notably the fact that Maestro Gustavo Gimeno was finally able to conduct in-person concerts with the TSO, including World Premieres and his involvement in programs like the NextGen Composer Program to foster the next generation.
Gimeno also noted the TSO’s Celebrate 100: Maestros’ Special Homecoming concert, where five of the orchestra’s previous Music Directors take the stage, as one of the highlights of the truncated season.
“This unique moment was a joyous celebration of who we are — a vibrant and continuously evolving orchestra with deep musical roots,” said Maestro Gimeno. “The event particularly resonated with me because it was clear how meaningfully connected our patrons are to our legacy, and to our musicians.”
Williams underscored the TSO’s ongoing commitments to bringing orchestral music to the community at large, including programs that bring new Canadians to the concert hall, as well as taking the music to healthcare workers, seniors, and others. Digital performance is still on TSO’s radar, as a way to connect with an even broader audience beyond the city.
He took an upbeat stance on the challenges and opportunities faced by the venerable organization.
“As we look forward to the next season of unforgettable performances, the next decade of deepening community engagement, and the next century of artistic excellence, I see an orchestra with ever-growing impact here in our home city of Toronto, and around the world,” added Mr. Williams. “The circumstance of the past seasons offered the Toronto Symphony Orchestra the opportunity to think expansively and act boldly in bringing music to our patrons in new ways, fundamentally shaping how we think of ourselves as Toronto’s symphony orchestra.”
Additional reporting by Michael Vincent.
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