In the same year that the 75-year-old Colorado Springs Symphony went dark, the inaugural year of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic Orchestra was a financial success-in the black and even boasting a modest cash surplus.
The Symphony, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2003, and then Chapter 7 bankruptcy a few months later, reemerged in mid-March as the Philharmonic, and was greeted with an outpouring of community support.
Then, and now.
Susan Greene, the orchestra’s executive director, had many people to thank Monday at the Pikes Peak Center-a variety of foundations and private donors who she called “our lifeblood, our air,” the musicians “who have sacrificed and will continue to sacrifice,” and Pikes Peak Center staff, who were “stalwart in their support.”
Financial records will be available at the end of August, after the completion of the audit that is in process. The orchestra’s first season ended May 31, and included 37 concerts-classical, holiday, youth and a much-praised Fourth of July concert funded by the city.
The Bee Vradenburg Foundation, the El Pomar Foundation, the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado and the Joseph Henry Edmondson Foundation each have donated upward of $50,000.
Attorney Thomas Cross, president of the orchestra’s board of directors, said the orchestra’s economic triumph would not have been possible without Greene, who had the “toughness of a New York City cop, the connections of the local Godfather and the energy of the Energizer Bunny.”
Cross spoke warmly of the many people who are putting their all into making the Philharmonic self-sufficient.
“It was a tremendous singular commitment that made this work, along with a little bit of luck,” Cross said. “We didn’t know sometimes not to be frightened.”
Both Cross and Greene made strides to be reassuring about the financial differences between the Symphony and the Philharmonic.
The Philharmonic, in addition to ending its first season with no debt, has signed a two-year agreement with its musicians (some of whom were not paid for several months as the Symphony sputtered through bankruptcy), and is not using deferred revenue-the revenue from early ticket sales is kept in escrow until the concert occurs.
Another shining distinction is that the Philharmonic is 20 percent ahead on next season’s ticket sales, which may have something to do with the talent lined up.
Notables on the 2004-05 schedule are Lee Greenwood (of “Proud to be an American” fame) and violin legend Itzhak Perlman.
The Philharmonic must continue to improve its revenues each season because the donations will shrink with each passing year.
“I believe that this second year will be our toughest year. We’re over the euphoria of year one; we have to make up some serious money,” Cross said. “It is a seeding process. They’re giving us less this year, and giving us less next year and so forth. Each year we have a higher goal to raise. And that’s the way it should be. In the end, we should be self-sustaining.”
After the money issues were squared away, Music Director Lawrence Leighton Smith rejuvenated the crowd gathered in the Pikes Peak Center with a scatty, charmingly jumbled speech about the “one thing” he knows about: music.
Smith spoke ardently about two things: Last year’s concerts and his musicians. “I’m on fire,” he said.
Smith said two concerts in particular stood out, October’s Beethoven Nine, May’s a Mozart festival at First United Methodist Church, “were like bookends” for the Philharmonic’s first year.
He was nearly bubbling with joy as he spoke about his musicians. “Each one of them has a heart as big as a house,” he said.
Smith handles the classical concerts, while Associate Director Thomas Wilson takes charge of the pop concerts.
Wilson, who called Smith’s classical concerts “the bread and butter, as it should be” of the Philharmonic, said the Pops Series was a “tough sale,” although progress is being made.
He said he looks forward to the upcoming season, which includes a Bravo Hollywood concert scheduled for March-vocalists will join the Philharmonic to present favorites from the silver screen-and a concert in honor of legendary film composer John Williams, scheduled for May.
“This is a great day for the Philharmonic,” Wilson said. “Every morning, I wake up and within minutes, the thought runs through my head how fortunate I am to work with this orchestra.”