Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra needs ’emergency’ donations

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The reeling Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is appealing to the community for “emergency financial help.”

The MSO announced recently a restructuring plan that includes reducing the orchestra by 11 percent, cutting its operating budget and reducing nearly 20 percent of its administrative staff.

The plan, which the MSO has deemed a “survival plan,” aims to help the organization regain its footing as it faces possible extinction, largely due to a $2 million deficit from the organization’s 2013 fiscal year.

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The deficit resulted from a combination of financial struggles, including donor fatigue, cost-cutting that hurt earned revenue and continued impact from the Great Recession.

In addition to reducing full-time musicians to save $1.2 million, the new plan will also change employees’ benefits packages to save a total $225,000.

In an attempt to boost income, the MSO’s schedule will include five additional performances in the coming season at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Other changes include eliminating administrative staff members’ pensions, 401(k) match and parking as well as mandating pay cuts and furloughs.

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If the MSO does not receive additional pledges to fund help fund its business plan for the future, it could fold.

“This is a critical opportunity to save what decades of effort and investment have created – a fabulous orchestra at a reasonable cost,” said Douglas Hagerman, chairman of the MSO board.

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