Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, June 11, 2001

on track to collect
$1 million gift

Mystery donor's gift
will be given only if two
requirements are met

By Tim Ryan

The Honolulu Symphony will collect a $1 million donation by the end of the month if it ends the fiscal year debt free.

"The orchestra is on target to meet that challenge," said Stephen Bloom, the organization's new executive director.

It will be the first time in three years that the Honolulu Symphony will be in the black, Bloom said. The donor wishes to remain anonymous.

The cash-strapped organization's financial turn-around has come from increased concert revenues this season, higher and more individual donations, and the orchestra's recent performance at the "Pearl Harbor" premiere for which it may have been paid as much as $100,000, according to some sources.

Subscription ticket sales were up 3 percent this season and the most expensive single tickets for the classical and pops series were increased 10 percent, from $50 to $55, though the average ticket increase is about three percent a season.

The symphony was hit hard financially a year ago after its 100th anniversary in which it booked world-renowned talent but at costs that proved to be more than ticket sales or donations, said Bloom.

Concert revenues for the Halekulani Classical Masterworks and Hawaiian Airlines Pops series were up "substantially" in the first three quarters this fiscal year, he said.

Total concert revenues are up 18 percent for the same period last year. The Masterworks and Pops series' revenues increased $201,000 to $1.32 million.

Operating revenues for fiscal year 2001 are projected to be just over $5.85 million. The organization has cut overall expenses by $870,000 to $5.82 million, making the projected operating surplus about $30,000, Bloom said.

With the end of the concert season, symphony officials now are focusing on an individual giving campaign, "asking the community to make an investment in the future of the Honolulu Symphony," Bloom said.

The $1 million donation, which will be used to eliminate accumulated debt from previous years, comes with two conditions: the symphony must complete this fiscal year in the black; and an additional $1 million must be raised by Dec. 31, 2001 to match the gift.

Bloom said he has identified several major sources in Hawaii and abroad for a matching campaign but declined to name them.

The symphony still needs to raise about $200,000 during its annual fund drive to balance its budget. The fund-raising goal is $1.75 million, with about $1.5 million in contributions and pledges of support so far.

The symphony's $6 million endowment is slightly more than its annual budget. "Ideal endowment levels" are three to four times a symphony's annual operating budget, and provide up to 25 percent of an orchestra's annual income, Bloom said.

But the last two seasons' deficits also was due to an interrupted season at the Blaisdell Concert Hall when the city set aside dates for major theater productions. That forced the symphony to hold several concerts close together in November and December, which diminished sales, officials said.

Ticket sales only cover 40 percent of the symphony's costs, Bloom said.

In the upcoming season, the symphony will open in October rather than September because promoter Ron Andrew is rumored to be holding the earlier dates for an as yet unannounced production.

The symphony also has scheduled four classical concerts on Saturday nights rather than the usual Tuesday night in an effort to attract more people, Bloom said. The Sunday classical concerts will remain, he said.

Sam Wong, the symphony's noted music director, has accepted a one-year extension through the 2002-2003 season. Symphony officials hope to offer a contract for popular Pops conductor Matt Catingub who is been paid on a performance by performance basis.

The symphony also has been awarded a three-year, $230,000 grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Foundation's largest ever to the orchestra.

Large grants like the one from the Hawaii Community Foundation will help the symphony establish marketing and donor development programs that will pay dividends for years to come, Bloom said.

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