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It also means that the orchestra must raise large sums of donations each year.
For years, dating back to the opening of Benaroya Hall in 1998, the orchestra board has tried to increase the endowment substantially, but the campaign has never achieved lift-off.
(Schwarz retired last year after 26 seasons.) The last round, two and a half years ago, convinced many musicians that management was trying to solve the organization's structural deficit by reducing the orchestra's artistic aspirations drastically.Chihuly took over at the orchestra's nadir in July 2009, stepped in as interim executive director, instituted some bold strategic thinking, and helped in the search process for Morlot and Woods.The trio has directed a wildly successful repositioning of the orchestra’s image, almost overnight.“Seattle Symphony ranks very high nationally in the number of performances each year, and the variety of series,” notes Woods.“Of the top 20 national symphony orchestras, Seattle ranks first on percentage of earned income (primarily ticket sales), but 19 in endowment size.” A variety of factors, many of them national trends, drove the symphony into its precarious position.
When Woods revealed that figure to me, I was both stunned at the size and also that the symphony (for years a fortress of guarded information) would come clean.