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Encouraging Numbers For Dallas’ Leading Classical Music Groups

by Jerome Weeks 19 Sep 2013 6:00 PM

The Dallas Symphony has a new, two-year contract, and the Dallas Opera has balanced its budget – two years ahead of schedule. Not bad, considering both groups were in severe financial trouble in 2011.


musiciansBoth images from Shutterstock.

The Dallas Symphony has signed a new two-year contract with the local musicians’ union, while the Dallas Opera has achieved a balanced operating budget for the first time since 2005. Both organizations are coming off severe financial crises in 2011 that caused them to cut back seriously on their season offerings.

The DSO’s new contract grants musicians a one percent raise the first year, a two percent raise the second. As small as the raises are, they are comparable to ones gained by the Los Angeles Philharmonic earlier this week. And they’re in sharp contrast to the pay cuts musicians have faced in Fort Worth and elsewhere — when they haven’t gone on strike or been locked out by bankruptcy proceedings. The DSO’s new contract also offers the symphony greater flexibility, something the new CEO, Jonathan Martin, has pushed for. The DSO will be able to field orchestras as small as 9 players to present chamber music or to work with other organizations in the Arts District. The DSO’s new season opens tonight at the Meyerson with mezzo-soprano Annalisa Stroppa.

For its part, the Dallas Opera announced today it’s achieved a balanced operating budget — two years ahead of schedule. In 2011, the DO’s financial crisis led general director Keith Cerny to cancel one mainstage show that year. The next year, the season was scaled back even more to only three mainstage operas. But Cerny went ahead with free Cowboys Stadium simulcasts as well as a financial restructuring and the hiring of a new musical director. Next month, the Dallas Opera’s new season returns to four mainstage shows. It starts with a free simulcast in Klyde Warren Park October 25th as part of the opening night of the opera, Carmen.

After the jump, both press releases:


Agreement Provides Base Salary Increase; Increases Flexibility for Alternative Performances

DALLAS, Sept. 18, 2013 – The Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Local 72-147 of the American Federation of Musicians are pleased to announce that a new 2-year contract has been ratified by both parties. The agreement is retroactive to September 1, 2013 and runs through August 31, 2015.

DSO musicians will receive a base salary increase of 1 percent in 2013 and a 2 percent increase in 2014. In addition, if other goals regarding donor pledges for major lead gifts are realized, musicians would receive an additional 2 percent increase in 2015 retroactive to the beginning of the 2014/15 season. Each musician will also receive a one-time bonus of $750 in 2013.

The agreement includes elements allowing greater flexibility in how the DSO and various Orchestra ensembles may be used in performances. In addition to the DSO’s community service programs such as DSO on the GO, this contract modification allows the Orchestra to explore new ways to reach out to and become more involved in the North Texas area. This will give more people in the Metroplex the opportunity to enjoy the in-person thrill of listening to live performances in alternative ways to traditional full-orchestra concerts.

For the first time, the agreement also includes the implementation of various wellness initiatives to help control overall health care costs.

“The management and Board of the DSO and its orchestra members have a long history of professional and congenial working relationships, and this agreement is another example of that mutual cooperation,” said Blaine Nelson, Chairman of the Dallas Symphony Board of Governors. “The Orchestra is playing at a very high level, providing great experiences for our patrons and bringing worldwide acclaim to the community of Dallas. Today’s announcement means our audiences will continue enjoying the excellent musical performances by the DSO.”

During negotiations, both sides followed a measured approach, understanding the need to balance financial realities with the DSO’s goal of continued growth in artistic excellence. The DSO has improved its financial position, but a long-term structural deficit must be addressed. The organization must raise a significant amount of incremental operating and endowment capital to sustain its current artistic path.

“In the spirit of partnership, our musicians’ leadership proposed several new and creative incentives, showing again their commitment to, and trust in, the entire organization,” said Jonathan Martin, President and CEO of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. “I’m proud to say the DSO has outstanding relationships with our musicians and the leadership.”

“This contract affirms our on-going desire to work collaboratively toward shared goals of elevating the Dallas Symphony’s impact for our loyal patrons, in our communities and across the nation,” said Christopher Adkins, the Principal Cello of the DSO and Chair of the orchestra’s musician’s negotiating committee.

About the Dallas Symphony Orchestra

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, under the leadership of Music Director Jaap van Zweden, presents the finest in classical music at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, regarded as one of the world’s premier concert halls.

Each year, the orchestra reaches more than 230,000 adults and 30,000 children through performances, educational programs and community outreach initiatives. A European Tour in March 2013, elevated the orchestra to national and international prominence.

The DSO performs more than 175 public concerts each year, including the 16-week Texas Instruments Classical Series and a 9-week Pops series. The orchestra performs free Community Concerts Series concerts in neighborhoods around the City of Dallas. The DSO on the Go series takes the orchestra to concert halls in communities across North Texas. The DSO’s award-winning youth education programs enhance community ownership by building new and diverse audiences for the future.



TDO Achieves First Balanced Operating Budget Since 2005

Company to Present Four Operas During 2014-15 Season, in Addition to Everest, A Dallas Opera World Premiere

DALLAS, TX, SEPTEMBER 19, 2013 – The Dallas Opera is extremely proud to announce today that the company has achieved its first balanced operating budget since Fiscal 2005, a full two years ahead of schedule. The company’s latest fiscal year ended on June 30th.

Exactly two years ago, the Dallas Opera faced its most severe financial crisis in modern company history, prompting the TDO Board and General Director and CEO Keith Cerny, who assumed the role in May of 2010, to initiate an aggressive restructuring of company operations. This included the difficult step of cancelling one of the mainstage operas of the 2011-2012 Season, and reducing the 2012-2013 Season to three mainstage operas. These steps were taken as part of a multi-year plan to restore the company’s financial health while maintaining artistic quality, and to achieve a balanced operating budget no later than the end of the 2014-2015 Season.

The subsequent outpouring of board, trustee and public support allowed the company to build a base of multi-year donor commitments, to secure major new gifts, earn an anonymous $10 million dollar match (through an equal amount in donations to the Cultural Renaissance Endowment Fund), dramatically reduce costs without sacrificing overall artistic quality, and steadily reduce the company’s deficits.

In recent fiscal years, TDO donors made significant, multi-year gifts while many other donors increased their level of giving in recognition of the Dallas Opera’s commitment to the highest standards of artistic quality, strict financial discipline and a demonstrated ability to adapt to the changing marketplace.

At the same time, the company moved boldly ahead with plans for two free Cowboys Stadium Simulcasts that attracted close to 30,000 patrons, and several new productions (including critically acclaimed versions of Tristan & Isolde, The Lighthouse and The Aspern Papers) in addition to two upcoming world premieres: Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer’s EVEREST slated for February of 2015, followed in October 2015 by the world premiere of Jake Heggie (Moby-Dick) and Terrence McNally’s first new opera together in more than a decade, GREAT SCOTT, which will star world-renowned mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.

After careful analysis, the Board and Dallas Opera’s administrative leadership took the necessary steps to put the company’s financial house in order to provide a foundation for continued artistic success. Aided by unwavering donor and community support, the Dallas Opera last season gave music lovers throughout North Texas outstanding performances of AIDA, TURANDOT, the chamber opera BON APPÉTIT and THE ASPERN PAPERS, while demonstrating our ability to balance the books and plan for expanded future seasons. This gave the Dallas Opera the firm footing required to return to a four-opera season (with an additional world premiere) in 2013-2014, the first season entirely planned under the direction of Keith Cerny.

“However, it’s vital that we not lose our momentum because our task is far from finished,” explains Mr. Cerny. “We must remain resolute in meeting all future financial and fund-raising goals while continuing to engage every sector of the community in TDO’s quest for new and more diverse audiences.

“Even in our most difficult days, during which we cut TDO’s full-time administrative staff by more than fifteen percent, we committed ourselves to expanding the Dallas Opera’s community outreach and education programs, dramatically increasing the number of students served and introducing entire families to the excitement of this unique art form.

“While no one can predict the future of the economy,” he adds, “with astute leadership from the Dallas Opera Board and Trustees and the support of all our loyal patrons, we can continue to build on these hard-fought achievements in seasons to come.”

Noted Dallas Opera Board Chairman T. Peter Townsend:

“On behalf of the Board and everyone at the Dallas Opera, I want to express our thanks for the grassroots community support of the company—as well as the encouragement we receive from our patrons to maintain extraordinarily high artistic standards in every production, and from our peers in the Arts District as we continue to explore ways to make our collective organizations even more cost-efficient and responsive.

“I also want to express my gratitude to the members of the Dallas Opera’s dedicated staff who contribute every day to the success of this company.

“The esteemed London-based publication, Opera, in a rave review of our recent production of The Aspern Papers, wrote this month that the Winspear ‘quite justifiably…has come to be recognized as America’s finest opera house.’ It is only fitting that the Dallas Opera should constantly strive to create the finest performances imaginable in this beautiful gift from—and to—the people of Texas.”


• Cut operating expenses by reducing the core TDO season from six performances per production to five by combining existing audiences for Friday night performances and altered other key aspects of the Dallas Opera’s business model.

• Raised $10 million in donations for the Cultural Renaissance Endowment Fund in order to secure a $10 million anonymous match.

• Created a new giving category at the Dallas Opera, “The General Director’s Circle” to recognize donors willing to commit for a minimum of three years, generating more than $7 million in pledges.

• Steadily reduced the company’s operating deficit each season and paid-off seasonal lines of credit.

• Secured generous major gifts in addition to the $10 million from an anonymous donor for TDO’s Endowment Fund: Texas Instruments and Texas Instruments Foundation with gifts totaling over half a million dollars; the Elsa von Seggern Foundation with gifts totaling nearly $600,000 and another $500,000 from Crow Holdings; as well as other major gifts, yet to be announced.

• Instituted a new chamber opera series allowing the company to take performances outside the traditional opera house to more intimate settings including the Wyly Theatre, Dallas Children’s Theater and the Dallas Farmer’s Market Demonstration Kitchen.

• Attracted additional new donors through the introduction of innovative technologies and delivery systems, including two groundbreaking Cowboys Stadium Simulcasts.

• Elevated the efficiency level of TDO both on and off-stage and continue to explore other means to cut costs and save on day-to-day operations.




The 2013-2014 “By Love Transformed” Season officially opens with our first CARMEN to be performed in the critically acclaimed acoustic of the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House. This will be the Dallas Opera’s sixth production of CARMEN in our 56-year-history. Bizet’s masterpiece will be conducted by Maestro Emmanuel Villaume, the esteemed new music director of the Dallas Opera, in his thrilling debut in that role. Previously, Maestro Villaume appeared at the Dallas Opera podium to conduct productions of Gounod’s Faust (1998) and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (2002).


Subscriptions for the Dallas Opera’s 2013-2014 “By Love Transformed” Season are on sale now, starting at just $76 for all four mainstage productions, through the Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at 214.443.1000 or online at

Single tickets are on sale now, starting at just $19. Student Rush best-available tickets can be purchased at the lobby box office for $25 to $50, depending on the section, (one per valid Student I.D.) ninety minutes prior to each performance.