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Indianapolis Orchestra Reports Surplus, More Ticket Sales

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

For the second consecutive year since the base pay of its musicians was cut, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra reported a budget surplus, as well as a boost in ticket sales.

The Indianapolis Symphony Society reported an 18-percent jump in ticket sales during the 2013-14 budget year, which ended August 31, with a 30-percent increase in the number of subscribers to the classical and pops series - their highest level in five years.

"The subscribers are the bread and butter of what it is that we do, and we saw such strong growth and a number of new subscribers coming into the family," said Gary Ginstling, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's CEO.

Efforts to attract younger fans paid off, too, as the ISO sold more student tickets than any budget year in its history.

The ISO finished the year with a surplus of more than $266,000 on revenue of $23.5 million.

It‘s the orchestra‘s second consecutive budget surplus, and it came in the second year of a five-year contract with the musician‘s union that saw the number of musicians cut from 87 to 74.

Base salaries for the remaining musicians were initially cut from $78,000 to $53,000, though it increased this past year and will continue to rise until reaching $70,000 in the final year of the deal.

"They were difficult concessions for us to make at the time, and remain so today. But I am very proud of our musicians‘ professionalism to maintain the highest level of artistic excellence," said Brian Smith, chairman of the orchestra committee for American Federation of Musicians Local 3.

The ISO also laid off about 40 percent of its staff in 2012, with staffers who remained taking a pay cut.

The orchestra is in its third year under Music Director Krzysztof Urbanski, and Ginstling gave him credit for putting together the programs that have brought more business. He also says everyone within the organization has been on the same page since his arrival, which came after the current contract was ratified.

"We are grateful to everyone in the ISO family. We are raising more money than ever before, and the most important thing is that we are operating within our means," Ginstling said.

The orchestra raised $9.73 million through a variety of fundraisers during the budget year, but Ginstling knows the ISO will have to do more this year and in coming years, as musician salaries continue to rise.

"That puts all the more pressure on ticket sales and fund raising to make sure we are generating those resources to cover those expenses. We are prepared to do that," Ginstling said.

Smith says the union would eventually like to see 87 musicians working with the ISO once again, but he says communications between management and musicians has improved since Ginstling, a former musician, was hired.

"Just wiping the slate clean after negotiations was the right move to make, I think. It allowed us all to have a fresh start, and I would say that relations are definitely better than they have been in the past," Smith said.

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