MSO needs $5 million soon to survive

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:40 am

To avoid folding altogether, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is rallying community and corporate support around a critical push to raise $5 million.

If the symphony cannot generate $5 million in the coming weeks, it will no longer be able to sustain its operations, said Mark Niehaus, president and executive director of the MSO.

“It really comes down to cash flow,” Niehaus said. “That’s what’s creating the crisis now.”

Due to ongoing financial struggles, the organization recently announced a restructuring plan that included trimming its orchestra and administrative staffs, renegotiating employee benefits packages, and securing more performance slots at its home at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts through a noncontiguous schedule.

Thanks to adjustments in staff salaries and benefits and the organization’s operations and performance schedule, the MSO has a projected cost savings of $2 million for the coming season.

The $5 million needed in the next few weeks will make up for a $2 million deficit the organization suffered last year and $3 million required to balance the budget this year, Niehaus said.

The funds will also help ensure that the orchestra has a sustainable plan in place moving forward.

“We’re not interested in kicking the can down the road anymore,” Niehaus said.

To collect funds, Niehaus and his staff are urging the public to donate to their cause, purchase tickets to concerts and spread the word about their mission to save what Niehaus describes as the “cornerstone” of Milwaukee’s performing arts community.

The organization is also meeting with potential donors who have not contributed to the organization in recent years to try to regain their support.

“By basically being honest with everyone and letting them know what the situation is, we hope to expand the base of support,” Niehaus said.

How confident is Niehaus that his organization can raise needed funds in the next few weeks?

“That’s a good question,” he said. “I can’t imagine that there won’t be an orchestra in Milwaukee. It’s very difficult for me to go there.”

Niehaus is at least certain that the MSO has made every effort possible to survive.

“I’m nervous because it’s out of my control, but I do feel that we as an organization have done everything that we possibly can,” Niehaus said.

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