St Louis posts first surplus this century

St Louis posts first surplus this century


norman lebrecht

October 17, 2017

The St Louis Symphony Orchestra is in a good place.

For the fiscal year ended August 31, 2017, the SLSO reported its first operating surplus of the 21st century. On an operating budget of $30.3 million, there was a surplus of $18,000.

The endowment reached $214 million.

There’s a new five-year contract with the musicians.

Stéphane Denève will succeed David Robertson, who retires after 13 years as music director.

And everything’s coming up roses.

Press release below.

St. Louis, October 16, 2017 – Today, at its Annual Meeting, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra celebrated the significant artistic achievements and community impact of its 2016/2017 season. The 137th season, which closed on August 31, 2017 with an operating surplus, was marked by inspired performances and growing audiences and partnerships. The operating surplus was a first for the organization this century, after balancing its budget on a cash basis in 2016.

Norman Eaker was elected Chair of the SLSO Board of Trustees. Eaker, a former Edward Jones Executive, succeeds Barry Beracha, whose distinguished tenure was marked by notable institutional and artistic successes including the appointment of President and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard and of Stéphane Denève as the orchestra’s next Music Director.

Barry Beracha, outgoing Chair of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Board of Trustees, said: “The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is more than just a group of musicians. At all levels of the organization, we are truly committed to enriching people’s lives though the power of music. Serving this national treasure has been a great honor and privilege. As we reflect on all that has been achieved over the four years I served as Chairman and as we celebrateDavid Robertson’s extraordinary tenure this year, I am eager to watch the SLSO build on its legacy.”

Marie-Hélène Bernard, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra President & CEO, said: “I am excited to take this opportunity to reflect on the artistic highlights and institutional milestones of the past year. I want to thank Barry Beracha for his tireless and devoted leadership. I also want to welcome Norm Eaker to his new role as Board Chair. Given the SLSO’s current momentum on all fronts as we celebrate David Robertson’s tenure and the orchestra’s 50 years at Powell Hall, the SLSO is well positioned to build on a legacy of artistic excellence and institutional stability.”

Key Institutional & Artistic Highlights:


  • New Five-Year Contract with the American Federation of Musicians

In January 2017, the SLSO and the American Federation of Musicians, Local 2-197, settled on a new five-year labor contract. The agreement was reached seven months early, providing over five years of labor stability for the SLSO. The new contract runs through August 28, 2022. Additionally, the SLSO settled a new five-year agreement with its stagehands through IATSE.

  • Stéphane Denève named next Music Director of the SLSO

In June, the SLSO announced Stéphane Denève as its 13th Music Director. His initial three-year term as Music Director begins with the 2019/2020 season. He will serve as Music Director Designate during the 2018/2019 season. Denève has been a frequent guest conductor with the orchestra since 2003. He will succeed David Robertson, whose distinguished 13-year tenure as Music Director will be celebrated during the 17/18 season.

  • John Adams at 70
    Acclaimed for recordings and performances of the works of John Adams, the SLSO presented a season-long celebration of his 70th birthday, culminating with a performance by the orchestra and chorus of The Gospel According to the Other Mary at Carnegie Hall. Additionally, the orchestra recorded the Adams Violin Concerto in September of 2016, with Leila Josefowicz and David Robertson, which will be released on Nonesuch Records during the 17/18 season. This will be the SLSO’s fourth recording of the music of John Adams for Nonesuch Records.

On September 30, 2016, Nonesuch released Scheherazade.2, also featuring violinist Leila Josefowicz and the SLSO with David Robertson conducting. Josefowicz received a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for Scheherazade.2.

  • Spain Tour 
    Supported by a leadership grant from the Centene Charitable Foundation, Music Director David Robertson and the SLSO traveled to Spain in February for a four-concert, three-city tour in València, Madrid, and Oviedo. While in Madrid, the trombones of the SLSO performed a pop-up concert at the main train station and visited a children’s hospital, bringing the joy and healing power of music to patients and families in the facility’s auditorium and ICU.

FY17 Financial Results & Community Support:

  • For the fiscal year ended August 31, 2017, the SLSO reported its first operating surplus of the century. Total operating revenue was $30.3 million, while operating expenses totaled $30.3 million, generating an operating surplus of $18,000. Earned revenue totaled $9.1 million, including $6.9 million in ticket sales.
  • The SLSO reported strong philanthropic support during the year, receiving $7.9 million from 5,406 donors contributing to its Annual Campaign. 32% of the donors were new to the institution.
  • The endowment reached $214 million. The SLSO also made strong progress in the quiet phase of its Realizing Greatness Campaign with $86.5 million raised to date for its endowment, for strategic initiatives related to Powell Hall, and for artistic, community and education programs.

Overall Reach and Community Impact:

  • More than 250,000 people experienced the SLSO at Powell Hall and across the region. The SLSO presented 219 total concerts, including 88 free events. 32% of the classical concert audiences were new to Powell Hall. There were 23 sold-out concerts, including four classical concerts and 14 Live at Powell Hall events.
  • Total ticket revenue grew 1%, despite two near sell-out concerts being cancelled due to inclement weather. 89,589 classical tickets were sold with 32% of those audiences new to Powell Hall.
  • Live at Powell Hall sales grew by 16% to $2.43 million, the largest since the inception of these popular programs, featuring sold-out programs, including Harry PotterTM and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Nelly, Ben Folds, and Singin’ In the Rain.
  • An estimated 275,000 people listened to the St. Louis Symphony’s Saturday night classical subscription concert broadcasts, either live on St. Louis Public Radio, 90.7 – KWMU or on its live internet stream. An additional 180,000 people tuned in for the SLSO’s Night at the Symphony broadcasts on the Nine Network.
  • More than 23,400 students attended education concerts at Powell Hall.




  • Steve P says:

    What a wonderful story. St Louis has been a group I enjoyed since the Slatkin years (still think their Prokofiev 5 is my favorite version). Robertson has also done very well and the band has continued to improve. In a part of the US desperate for good cultural success stories, finally something to be excited about. Bravo!

  • Michael Yonan says:

    Between this wonderful news and the Kansas City orchestra’s recent fundraising success, Missouri seems to be a good place for classical music!

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    St. Louis and Kansas City are making Classical Music great again.

  • Larry says:

    Congratulations to everyone concerned!

  • MacroV says:

    Remarkable – especially a $225 million endowment which must rank it among the top in the US (maybe even a Big 5) – considering that about 15 years ago they were in dire financial straits.

  • harold braun says:

    Fantastic news for this fantastic orchestra!Well deserved indeed!

  • Sue says:

    Well done!!! Obviously some good financial brains behind the organization.