Business/Finance

Philadelphia Orchestra announces big pledges

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Philadelphia Orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra has received several major gifts and pledges toward its effort to emerge from bankruptcy and establish solid financial footing, leaders said Wednesday.

Since filing for bankruptcy reorganization in April, the orchestra has received $11.2 million from foundations, philanthropists and its board, chief executive officer Allison Vulgamore said. An additional $16.3 million has been promised in the form of challenge pledges, which will be awarded if the orchestra raises $17.5 million more by the end of the year.

Orchestra officials regarded the funding as a vote of confidence in its five-year plan to secure big donors, fill more seats and build a nest egg. The orchestra did not release specific amounts given by donors, which include the William Penn Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, cable mogul and philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, the Neubauer Family Foundation and members of the orchestra board.

"These gifts provide significant momentum for our ongoing fundraising efforts," Vulgamore said. "And as we turn our attention toward the future, we do so with confidence knowing that our plan ... has the support of such outstanding civic leaders."

The 111-year-old orchestra, among the world's most renowned symphonies and the ensemble behind the soundtrack to Walt Disney's 1940 film "Fantasia," stunned music lovers by becoming the first major U.S. orchestra to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It has struggled with dwindling attendance and donations, shrinking endowment income, the recession and an aging audience that's not being replaced.

Management told a federal Bankruptcy Court judge that it wants to save money by changing the pension plan for musicians, negotiating a new lease with the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and cutting financial ties with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.

The judge allowed the orchestra time to reorganize its finances and plot its short- and long-term future without canceling the current concert season.

While orchestra officials were buoyed by the new funding, it is a fraction of what's needed to secure its financial and artistic future. A five-year strategic plan sets an ambitious fundraising goal of $100 million for the endowment and $60 million for operations, programming and other expenses - an amount to be raised concurrently with the orchestra's annual funding appeals.

"We're taking one step in front of the other," Vulgamore said. "We're getting the infusion of commitment and we are on target to the funding we need to secure our future for generations to come."

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philadelphia, pennsylvania, philadelphia orchestra, bankruptcy, business/finance
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