The story of South Dakota Symphony’s turnaround

Posted on: April 14, 2014


In Saturday’s (4/12) Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Jodi Schwan writes that in September 2010 Jennifer Boomgaarden had been executive director of the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra for six weeks when she discovered that the orchestra was nearly out of funds. “Unsophisticated financial reporting and budgeting, combined with a recession-driven decrease in ticket sales and contributions, had left the nonprofit in a deep hole. Days away from running out of cash, the board of directors and a small group of angel donors stepped in. They launched a $460,000 sustainability campaign, used $260,000 in donor-released endowment funds to stop the hemorrhaging and started raising money.… ‘The hardest day I’ve had at the South Dakota Symphony was to sit in the board room and say we need to cut the staff and musicians’ salaries by 15 percent across the board,’ Boomgaarden said.… Not only did those musicians stay, but they started playing to an even greater level of excellence.… Today, the symphony is on track to eliminate its debt in 2017 if not sooner.… ‘The lesson I’ve learned is … don’t avoid making the tough decisions,’ [board chairman Scott] Lawrence said. ‘Don’t put bad news on the back burner. Get it on the table. Deal with it and move ahead.’ ” The Argus Leader also includes an interview with Boomgaarden. The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra has received several ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming from the League of American Orchestras.

Posted April 14, 2014

Pictured: Jennifer Boomgaarden, executive director of the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra. Photo by Jay Pickthorn