And Omaha Beach was a skirmish

The Indianapolis Symphony just reported a substantial deficit:

A year of declining contributions and ticket sales left the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra with a $2.8 million deficit.

Symphony officials say its current budget has been cut by $3 million, to $26 million, in part through a 12 percent pay cut accepted by musicians in a new contract last month.

Symphony President Simon Crookall said Monday that the deficit was “a warning sign” but that he didn’t anticipate more cuts.

The recession caused the symphony’s endowment to drop from $128 million in mid-2007 to about $90 million now. Crookall says about $100 million more is needed to make the endowment adequate for an orchestra of its size.

The symphony also continues searching for a new music director following the failure over the summer of contract talks with Mario Venzago.

A “warning sign?” That’s one way to describe a deficit of over 10% of the budget. Of course, cutting $3 million from a $29 million budget is not trivial either.

The endowment calculation is very interesting indeed. Not too long ago, an endowment was considered sufficient if it was twice the size of the annual budget. It appears that Crookall believes that an endowment of less than 7-8 times the budget isn’t enough. Using the traditional 5% draw, that would suggest that the endowment should provide around 40% of the entire budget, or not much less than what’s typically the percentage of the budget that goes to musicians’ compensation.

He might be right. It’s certainly a financial model closer to museums that to show business.

About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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