Atlanta Sees A Sliver Of Sunshine

The 7/16/2015 edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article by Howard Prousner that reports on some good news for the beleaguered Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) in the form of an undisclosed six figure surplus for the 2014/15 season that started off with a nine week lockout.

Though final fiscal 2015 figures will not be known until later this summer when financial records are complete for the Woodruff Arts Center — the nonprofit entity over the ASO, Alliance Theatre and High Museum of Art — Woodruff spokesman Randy Donaldson said early numbers show revenues exceeding expenses by a “solid six figures.”

Adaptistration People 161Taken into perspective, that six figure surplus amounts to somewhere in the two to five percent surplus on the ASO’s typical annual budget; moreover, 22 percent of that surplus will be distributed to the existing 77 musicians per the terms of the master agreement that brought the lockout to an end.

That amounts to an absolute low of $285.71 per musician to an absolute high of $2,857.14 per musician but a more realistic expectation is somewhere in the $350 neighborhood.

In addition to the surplus, the organization announced that it has raised $13.3 million toward its $25 million goal for restoring permanent musicians that have been shed since 2012 and served as a key bargaining point for musician employees.

For now, both employer and employees remain cautiously optimistic about the ASO’s direction.

Interim President and CEO Terry Neal called the orchestra’s improving financial picture “gratifying” in an ASO statement.

“We are very grateful and encouraged by the wonderful response by donors over the last seven months who are investing in the future of the ASO through the Musicians’ Endowment Campaign,” Daniel Laufer, president of the ASO Players Association, said in an email to the AJC. “It is critical that we restore the 11 positions lost during the lockout as soon as possible.”

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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