Season highlights included celebrations of Powell Hall 50th anniversary and the conclusion of David Robertson’s extraordinary tenure as Music Director, plus increased individual giving and ticket sales
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – At its Annual Meeting on Monday, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra shared the significant artistic achievements, community impact, and strong financial results of its 2017/2018 season. The SLSO’s 138th season, which closed on August 31, 2018, was filled with powerful performances, increasing audiences, and creative collaborations. This is the second consecutive year that the SLSO finished the year with an operating surplus, after balancing its budget on a cash basis in 2016 for the first time in a century.
During the 17/18 season, the SLSO celebrated the 13-year tenure of David Robertson as Music Director and the 50th anniversary of Powell Hall as its home. It marked the second year of the SLSO’s five-year strategic plan, which focuses on three key areas for the institution: Music, Experience, and Excellence; Audience and Community; and Institutional Culture and Capacity.
“It’s been an honor to serve as Board Chair this season,” Norman Eaker, Chair of the SLSO Board of Trustees said. “We are building on the incredible history and legacy of the SLSO. As we celebrate the remarkable year the orchestra had artistically and financially, we also look forward to an exciting future with incoming Music Director Stéphane Denève. We optimistically anticipate another amazing season of enriching lives through the power of music.”
“It was an extraordinary year for the SLSO, both on the artistic and institutional fronts. The entire SLSO family is grateful for David Robertson’s many accomplishments and contributions over his 13 years as Music Director of the SLSO, and the organization will continue to benefit from his extraordinary legacy for years to come,” Marie-Hélène Bernard, SLSO President and CEO said. “The momentum from last year has carried into the start of this season as we prepare to welcome our next Music Director Stéphane Denève. I want to thank Norman Eaker and all the trustees for their dedication to and leadership of the SLSO. Thanks to the St. Louis community’s generous support, the SLSO continues to build on our legacy of artistic excellence and institutional stability.”
Key Institutional and Artistic Highlights
• Celebration of David Robertson
David Robertson’s 13-year tenure as Music Director with the SLSO was defined by musical excellence, innovative programming, and artistic partnerships – all of which were on display throughout the season. From opening the season with pianist Emanuel Ax for a two-week Mozart Festival through the closing weekend with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Roberston’s performances with the SLSO celebrated his legacy in St. Louis.
• American Ballet Theatre Residency and California Tour
The year included a first-of-its-kind collaboration with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) and principal dancer Misty Copeland for two sold-out performances of The Firebird in Lincoln, Nebraska. The ABT residency also included masterclasses with SLSO musicians for University of Nebraska students. The SLSO traveled to California – its fourth trip there in eight years – with concerts in Palm Desert, Santa Barbara, University of California – Davis, and Stanford University. Continuing the SLSO’s commitment to music education, the UC Davis residency included a side-by-side concert with students and a reading session for student composers.
• Creative Collaborations
As an extension of its education initiatives, the SLSO hosted its first ever side-by-side community concert with 90 teachers from 82 school districts (including one from Chicago) sharing the stage at Powell Hall with their SLSO counterparts in a free performance for the public. The SLSO also partnered with the St. Louis Blues for a sports-themed Education and Family Concert, as well as a National Anthem Audition contest that generated hundreds of entries. This year was the 41st season of the SLSO’s partnership with Opera Theatre Saint Louis, a collaboration unique in the country.
• New Recordings
Two recordings featuring the SLSO were released this year: The Gershwin Moment by pianist Kirill Gerstein and composer John Adams‘ new release of his Violin Concerto with Leila Josefowicz – both recorded live with Robertson and the SLSO at Powell Hall. The SLSO released a two-disc tribute to David Robertson, with selections from throughout his tenure.
• Powell Hall at 50
The SLSO marked the 50th anniversary of Powell Hall as the orchestra’s first permanent home throughout the season, sharing the history of the building – including its origin as the St. Louis Theatre in 1925 – and its transformation into the renowned home of the SLSO in 1968. The public joined the celebration at a special open house in January and a curated exhibit at the Central Library in the spring.
FY18 Financial Results and Community Support
• For the fiscal year ended August 31, 2018, the SLSO reported its second year in a row of operating surplus. Total operating revenue was $30.9 million, while operating expenses totaled $30.4 million, generating an operating surplus of $490,000 due to increased giving to the Annual Fund and increased tour revenue, as well as lower-than-expected concert costs.
• Earned revenue totaled $9.7 million. Ticket revenue was up 5.5% over last season, totaling $7.3 million in sales.
• The SLSO reported strong philanthropic support during the year, with contributed revenue totaling $10.1 million. Overall fundraising surpassed FY17, with individual giving increasing 5% over last year and 33% of donors new to the institution.
• The endowment reached $223.2 million, an increase of five percent over FY17. The growth in the endowment was realized because of both significant donor contributions and earnings on investments. The SLSO’s endowment plays a vital role in providing financial support to further the symphony’s mission, with distributions from the endowment providing approximately 35% of the SLSO’s annual income.
Overall Reach and Community Impact
• More than 255,000 people experienced the SLSO at Powell Hall and across the region, including the more than 8,000 who attended performances in California and Nebraska.
• There were 20 sold-out concerts, including five classical concerts, 10 Live at Powell Hall events, Lift Every Voice, three holiday performances, and one Family concert.
• The SLSO presented more than 300 total concerts, opening the season with its annual free concert in Forest Park and closing the season under the Arch on the Fourth of July for Fair Saint Louis. Those two free community concerts combined reached more than 30,000 people.
• Total ticket revenue grew by 5.5%. For classical concerts, 88,471 tickets were sold with 29% of those audiences new to Powell Hall.
• Live at Powell Hall sales grew by 9.2% to $2.65 million, with sold-out programs including Harry PotterTM and the Chamber of Secrets, Jurassic Park, Leslie Odom, Jr., the Music of John Williams, Harry PotterTM and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Boyz II Men, and the Music of Elton John.
• An estimated 430,000 people were reached through the SLSO’s public media partners: both the Saturday night classical concert broadcasts live on St. Louis Public Radio, 90.7 – KWMU and its live internet stream, and also through the monthly Night at the Symphony broadcasts on the Nine Network.
• More than 21,000 students attended education concerts at Powell Hall.
Board of Trustees
• Continued Terms and Newly Elected Officers
The members of the Corporation elected two members to the Board of Trustees for continued terms: Thomas O’Meara (Moneta Group) for a second term and Dr. John A. Pieper (St. Louis College of Pharmacy) for a third term. Stephen Mackin (Mercy Hospital) was elected to the Board of Trustees for a first term. Other elected officers included Vice Chair David Steward (World Wide Technology) and Secretary Emily Rauh Pulitzer (Pulitzer Arts Foundation).
You can read the full Annual Report at www.slso.org/en/about-us/annual-report/.
Following the 18/19 season as Music Director Designate, Stéphane Denève begins his tenure as Music Director of the SLSO with the 19/20 season.
About the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Celebrated as one of today’s most exciting and enduring orchestras, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is the second-oldest orchestra in the country, marking its 139th year with the 2018/2019 season. Widely considered one of the world’s finest, the SLSO maintains its commitment to artistic excellence, educational impact, and community connections – all in service to its mission of enriching lives through the power of music.
In addition to its regular concert performances at Powell Hall, which has been the permanent home of the SLSO for 50 years, the orchestra is an integral part of the diverse and vibrant St. Louis community, presenting free education programs and performances throughout the region each year. It presents St. Louis Symphony: Live at the Pulitzer, a four-program series at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. The SLSO also serves as the resident orchestra for Opera Theatre Saint Award-winning season marking the 42nd year of their partnership.
The Grammy Award-winning SLSO’s impact beyond the St. Louis region is realized through weekly Saturday night concert broadcasts on St. Louis Public Radio, acclaimed recordings, and regular touring activity. A sought-after artistic partner by preeminent musicians and composers from across the globe, as well as by local and national organizations, the SLSO enjoys a long history of robust and enduring artistic collaborations that have developed and deepened over the years.
Today, the SLSO builds on the institution’s current momentum on all fronts, including artistic, financial, audience growth, and community impact, and looks toward the future with Stéphane Denève. Denève, who has been a frequent guest conductor with the orchestra since 2003, begins his tenure as Music Director with the 19/20 season, following this season as Music Director Designate. For more information, visit slso.org.