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DSO Financial Update: Doing Better But Not Doing Great

by Jerome Weeks 24 Jan 2012 6:00 AM

Conductor Jaap van Zweden is getting a proclamation from Mayor Rawlings this week — while financially, the DSO has shifted from staving off insolvency to trying to retire its multi-million dollar deficit.


In November, the Dallas Symphony’s top donors were told that the orchestra could be insolvent by the end of January. KERA’s Jerome Weeks reports that isn’t going to happen. But the DSO is not out of the woods.

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The Dallas Symphony has solved its immediate cash-flow problem. The symphony’s projections were that sometime in late January or early February, it was going to max out its line of credit of eight million dollars. The orchestra was using that credit to cover everyday operational expenses. Because of the recession, the DSO has been selling, on average, only 65 percent of its seats, and donations were not coming in that had been promised. As a result, the symphony has run multi-million dollar deficits this season and the past two seasons.

So the emergency call went out, and an ‘action plan’ was announced that involved programming cuts. But within 90 days, the orchestra needed at least 5 million dollars just to continue this season.

David Hyslop is the orchestra’s interim president.

Hyslop: “That has happened. We got the cash through, we’re OK on the line of credit and all of that. But we don’t want to pull any punches. That only takes care of the cash needs until we get into early fall, and the challenges are still immense.”

The symphony has been basking in Jaap van Zweden’s conductor of the year award given by the journal Musical America. Van Zweden will be honored Thursday with a proclamation from Mayor Mike Rawlings. But the DSO has also had to cut and consolidate performances next season – the better to reflect audience demand. And the musicians’ union has agreed to extend a wage freeze for the fifth year.

Hyslop says the new challenge is to retire the symphony’s deficit.

Hyslop: “Everybody’s put some skin in the game. The orchestra’s done their bit, the staff’s done their bit. We’ve made cuts in the season. And now we will see if the community will come forward. The crux of the matter still is we still are going to need to raise 15 million dollars.”

Hyslop says retiring the deficit this way will take two to three years.