"No Reserves": MSO May Go Broke by April

Jan 31, 2014

Without an immediate cash infusion, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra could play its final concert in March.

While the 53-year-old organization has seen a long-term decline in income, board chair Gayle Rose said that time is running out.  

“The difference this year than any other year is we have no reserves,” Rose said. 

The orchestra is $400,000 short of finishing out the 2013-2014 season. Half of that amount can be covered by what orchestra president and CEO Roland Valliere calls “Draconian measures.” He’s cutting six administrative positions, and programming may be trimmed. Once concert has already been canceled.

“We’ve taken the scalpel, we’ve dug pretty deep, we may be into the bone, we’re trying to avoid the marrow,” Valliere said.

Beyond the prospect of going broke in three months, the Memphis Symphony faces a long-term problem, an annual budget deficit of $1.5 million. Valliere said it would need a $20-$30 million endowment to make up those losses in the future. The orchestra currently has no endowment.

If the MSO survives to next season, Valliere says it will likely not be in its current form, and the musicians themselves will have to embrace major restructuring.

"If there’s a role for the musicians going forward, and I hope that there is, they’re gonna need to be a critical part of solving this problem,” said Valliere, who has been in his position for only three months.

Two high profile concerts at risk of being cut toward the end of this season are the popular Symphony in the Gardens and the Memphis in May Sunset Symphony.