Symphony chipping away at deficit

The next two weeks of summer concerts could affect the results, but the Charlotte Symphony expects to end its season with its smallest deficit in years.

The group is likely to have a shortage of about $200,000 when it concludes its fiscal year June 30, executive director Jonathan Martin said Tuesday. The orchestra's expenses for the season will come out to about $7.8 million.

Having another deficit "may not sound great," Martin said. "But if you compare it to the past couple of years, it's enormous progress."

The orchestra has been struggling with its finances since 2002. Previous seasons, Martin said, have had deficits of $600,000 to $800,000.

Martin spoke shortly before the orchestra's annual membership meeting early Tuesday at the Knight Theater. During the meeting, attended by nearly 200 subscribers and board members, Martin described the orchestra's attack on its financial problems over the past year, and noted several milestones:

The raising of $4.3 million toward a five-year bridge fund to tide the orchestra over as it rebuilds its finances.

Cost cuts, including the players' agreeing to a reduction in pay.

The collection of $150,000 in donations at last year's Summer Pops concerts at SouthPark, where the orchestra for the first time asked concertgoers to give $5 apiece.

The donations at the rest of this year's Summer Pops will affect the end-of-season result. So will the box office results at two performances with admission charges: a pops concert with an ABBA tribute group on Friday and an outdoor concert with Tito Puente Jr. and his Latin band on June 26.

Tuesday's speakers included Christopher Warren-Green, who takes over in September as the orchestra's music director. Warren-Green, who moved to Charlotte from England with his family this month, vowed to "dedicate as much time as I possibly can" to helping the orchestra reach new listeners and strengthen its finances.

Paying tribute to musicians who remain committed despite financial blows, Warren-Green said that "I will not stop working... until they have the artistic freedom that only financial stability will bring."

On July 1, former N.C. Gov. Jim Martin - a former tuba player in the orchestra - begins a two-year term as chairman of the orchestra's board. During that time, he said after the meeting, the orchestra will launch an endowment campaign aimed at raising $25 million. He thinks that's essential to the orchestra's health. "Otherwise," Martin said, "we stay in the hole every year."