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RPO LOOKS BACK ON YEAR OF CONTRASTS: Annual meeting revisits ups & downs of 90th season

January 29, 2014

For Immediate Release: January 29, 2014
Media Contacts:   Sally Cohen, 585-749-1795, sally@sallycohenpr.com
RPO Info:  rpo.org, facebook.com/SuperRPO, twitter.com/SuperRPO, rpo-land.blogspot.com

Annual meeting revisits ups & downs of 90th season
Last season numbers, next season changes, new board members announced 

Rochester, NY – At its annual meeting today, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) looked back at its 90th Anniversary Season in 2012–13 as a year of contrasts. Noteworthy advancements in programming and community engagement were sometimes obscured by public controversy surrounding the early termination of its music director’s contract. Financially, the picture was also mixed, with record results for the Annual Campaign offset by disappointments in underwriting support and at the box office.

“It’s important to remind ourselves – and those who care about symphonic music and the RPO – that there was much to be proud of during the 2012-13 season,” says RPO President and CEO Charles Owens. “Week after week, our extraordinary musicians performed exhilarating concerts that brought audiences to their feet, and we remained absolutely steadfast in our commitment to engage broad cross-sections of the Rochester community with free or low-cost concerts and first-rate education programs.”

In terms of its financial health, after sustaining a sizeable operating loss in 2011–12, the RPO took an important step toward strengthening its bottom line by negotiating and ratifying a new, four-year agreement with the Rochester Musicians’ Association last year. A reduction in the number of contracted weeks, from 39 to 36, helped the organization reduce its operating expenses by about 5.4%, from $9.9 million in 2011–12 to $9.4 million in 2012–13.

Revenues declined last season by 3.7%, from $9.2 million to $8.9 million, with box office and concert fee revenues off 4% and contributed income dropping by 13%. Accelerating the year-over-year declines was a drop of $244,000 or 36% in concert and special project underwriting from corporations, foundations and individuals.

This trend masked an important bright spot in financial performance: the 5,296 donors to the Annual Campaign who collectively pushed that vital source of unrestricted operating revenues to an all-time high of $2.329 million, finally surpassing the pre-Recession record level of $2.321 million. Government and net revenues from special events were also up slightly for the year, as were total unrestricted net assets as a result of investment dollars accessed by the RPO to improve cash flow. Total net assets also grew by $417,000, driven by market gains in the RPO’s endowment portfolios.

Taken together, these trends resulted in an operating loss of $544,000 for the year, an improvement over the $746,000 loss the prior year, but nevertheless an unacceptable result that added urgency to the organization’s need to adopt a more sustainable business model.

By the end of the fiscal year on August 31, 2013, an Operational Sustainability Task Force, chaired by Patrick Fulford, began wrestling with the RPO’s underlying fiscal challenges and exploring every possible strategy for achieving financial stability. One important effect of that study is a restructured 2014-15 season, in which a 12-week (rather than 14-week) Philharmonics season and a nine rather than 10-week Pops season will provide for three weeks of innovative programming. Details will be announced this spring.

In addition, the Board authorized an expansion of the Development Department, a recapitalization that is positioning the organization for vital growth in contributed revenue.

Audience numbers for 2011-12 remained on par with previous seasons, with more than 102,000 attending ticketed concerts, over 40,000 served through the RPO’s educational and community engagement events, and 11,500 attending the Orchestra’s runout and hired performances.

Among the most notable artistic achievements last season were three world premieres: Jeff Tyzik’s Images: Musical Impressions of an Art Museum; The Freedom Zephyr by the late Eastman School of Music Dean Douglas Lowry; and Water of Life, an RPO commission from composer Karen Tanaka.

RPO musicians performed five orKIDStra family concerts as well as educational concerts for more than 13,000 Rochester-area schoolchildren. They presented nearly 40 community engagement concerts, many of which were offered free of charge. These included the Around the Town series and summer concerts at Ontario Beach, Frontier Field and in Downtown Rochester. The RPO also traveled well beyond Monroe County, with concerts as far away as Arrowhead Park in the Adirondacks.

Last season also saw the Orchestra reaching out in exciting new ways to deepen its partnerships with numerous artists and institutions in our region. These included: The City of Rochester, which sponsored an RPO Community Chorus Concert in May featuring 200 community vocalists; Eastman School of Music’s Young Artists International Piano Competition; Ithaca College, where the RPO launched a new concert series last season; Rochester City Ballet, which joined the RPO for the world premiere of Jamey Leverett’s choreography to Jeff Tyzik’s New York Cityscape; and Rochester Contemporary Art Center.

Last but not least, the Music Director Search Committee, led by former Board Chair Ingrid Stanlis, began its well-organized music director search process. Like the RPO’s Operational Sustainability Task Force, the Search Committee is composed of musicians, staff, Board and Honorary Board members and an Eastman School of Music representative, and reflects the remarkable spirit of cooperation that has long been a hallmark of the RPO’s culture and that will help ensure its success.

“We have transitioned through a difficult year into a bright, new era of collaboration, community engagement, creative thinking and forward momentum,” says RPO Board Chair Dawn Lipson, who promises that last season’s mixed results will result in a more sustainable model for the future. “For the past 90 years, the RPO has been Rochester’s orchestra, and we remain more committed than ever to the ideals of our founder, George Eastman. Together, we will perpetuate the Rochester Philharmonic’s extraordinary legacy of great performances and service to the community for another 90 years.”

Also during the Annual Meeting, six board members who had been appointed by the board in November were elected by the RPO membership:

Lauren Dixon (Canandaigua) is the owner and chief executive officer of marketing communications firm Dixon Schwabl. Her career began at WHAM TV-13, where she received national awards as an on-air reporter, anchor and co-host. After working as sales manager at WROC TV-8, she founded Dixon Schwabl in 1987. Dixon is a frequent volunteer and currently serves on numerous boards, including Thompson Health Foundation, Ontario ARC, Greater Rochester Enterprise, CMAC, Monroe Community College Foundation, Rochester Business Alliance and United Way of Greater Rochester.

Dr. Steven E. Feldon (Brighton) is chair of Ophthalmology at University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry and Founding Director of the David and Ilene Flaum Eye Institute. A neuro-ophthalmologist and orbital surgeon, he’s also an inventor of ophthalmic instruments and a scientific investigator. Feldon is the former president of the North American Neuro-Ophthalmic Society, and has served on the boards of the University of Rochester Medical Center and the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Michael B. Millard (Geneseo) has been a first vice-president and senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch since 1976, is a published author, and teaches English at SUNY Geneseo. He has served on the boards of Friends of the Rochester Public Library, Geva Theatre Center, Rochester Area Community Foundation and Rochester Philharmonic Fund, Inc., among others, and currently serves on the Highland Hospital Patient Family Advisory Board.

Sandra A. Parker (Pittsford) is president and chief executive officer of the Rochester Business Alliance, a post she has held since 2005. She was instrumental in establishing the RBA as the region's "Voice of Business," and is a leader in the Unshackle Upstate coalition. Parker is listed as one of Greater Rochester's Most Influential Women, and won the ATHENA Award in 2002.  A native Rochesterian, she serves on a variety of boards, including the Bank of Castile, Center for Governmental Research, The Community Foundation, Frontier Communications of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester and VisitRochester.

Dr. Stephen Rosenfeld (Pittsford) retired as Professor Emeritus at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology in 2004, and has since served on the boards of the CWNY Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, Finger Lakes Chamber Music Festival (current president), Rochester Birding Association, National Council of the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and the Rochester Oratorio Society (Finance Committee), where his wife, Elise, is a longtime singer and previous general manager.

Jim Boucher (Pittsford) has been at Caldwell Manufacturing Company for 30 years, advancing in management positions to his present title of Chairman of the Board after serving five years as President. He returns to the RPO Board after being previously appointed in 2002, elected as Board Chair in 2006 and serving in that capacity until 2009.  In addition to being a member of the RPO’s Honorary Board, Boucher has served on the boards of the Rochester Museum and Science Center, Rochester Business Alliance and Southeast YMCA. He has also volunteered in various capacities for the United Way, Wilson Commencement Park and the Boy Scouts of America.

Joining the RPO’s Honorary Board – made up of those who’ve established a record of outstanding service, leadership and character – is Suzanne D. Welch (Rochester), executive director of the Rochester Academy of Medicine. Welch served as RPO board chair from 2009–2011, during which time the orchestra recovered from a $750K deficit to balance its budget two years running. Welch retired from Eastman Kodak Company in 2008 as Director of Worldwide Total Compensation and Vice President of Human Resources, before which she was Vice President of Business and Technology Strategy at Corning, Inc.

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has been committed to enriching and inspiring our community through the art of music since its founding in 1922. The RPO presents approximately 150 concerts and broadcasts a year, serving up to 200,000 people through ticketed events, education and community engagement activities, and concerts in schools and community centers throughout the region. Notable former music directors include Eugene Goossens, José Iturbi, Erich Leinsdorf, David Zinman, and Conductor Laureate Christopher Seaman; Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik has earned a national reputation for excellence in pops programming during his 20-year tenure with the RPO. With Michael Butterman as Principal Conductor for Education and Outreach (The Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair) – the first position of its kind in the country – the RPO reaches more than 13,000 children through its specific programs for school-aged children. The RPO's 2013-14 season highlights include Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik's 20th anniversary celebration, and a performance at Carnegie Hall on May 7, 2014, as part of the Spring For Music festival.

Media please note: Images from and more details about the RPO’s 2012–13 season are available upon request. Interviews, as well as photo and footage opportunities, can also be arranged. High-resolution images for 2013–14 Philharmonics concerts are available at docs.google.com/folder; high-res photos for Pops and other concerts are available at docs.google.com/folder/d.


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