Balancing optimism and realism: Memphis Symphony looks ahead to 2021

Posted on: February 4, 2021

“Under the circumstances, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra navigated through 2020 reasonably well,” writes John Klyce in Monday’s (2/1) Memphis Business Journal (TN). “In the early days of the pandemic … about 91% of patrons said to consider their ticket costs donations, rather than ask for refunds… The administrative staff size was reduced, and remaining employees took compensation cuts…. The organization managed to end 2020 with a balanced budget. But that’s not sustainable…. ‘I’m trying to balance being realistic, and being optimistic,’ Memphis Symphony Orchestra president and CEO Peter Abell said…. The good news is that donations haven’t fallen drastically…. The bad news, ticket revenue is expected to drop … from over $1 million annually, to about $40,000 … The reduction is likely to come, in part, from the decrease in … performances…. The organization has been able to keep paying the 55 tenured performers it has under contract. But, there hasn’t been work for other musicians it would typically hire…. On Dec. 19, 2020, MSO held a live Christmas concert…. Abell … fretted over the decision to hold the concert. Then he heard the music. ‘And you think, “Oh, my gosh, this has been absent—this is so great,” ‘ he said.”