The Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic ended the year on a high note after successfully wrapping up a critical fundraising campaign to stabilize its finances, add to a gutted staff and replenish depleted reserves.

The philharmonic exceeded its $400,000 goal and the money is still coming in, topping $420,000 by mid-December.

So many years had passed since the nonprofit group launched a special fundraiser. No one knew if a $400,000 goal was realistic, board president Ira Miller said.

The philharmonic’s fiscal picture for the last few years had been a dirge. Musicians and vendors had to wait to be paid. Bills mounted. Staff was let go. Those that remained handled day-to-day operations as best as they could. But without an executive director, there was little strategic planning or new initiatives.

The situation has reversed itself. The money paid off mounting bills to patient vendors who tried to be understanding of the ensemble’s situation. The philharmonic also hired Nancy Sanderson, who founded and served as executive director of the Performing Arts Institute at Wyoming Seminary. She started in September, filling the post that had been vacant for 2½ years.

In addition to leading the staff, Sanderson is focusing on outreach opportunities, fundraising activities, a marketing campaign and a revamp of the website, to be unveiled in January.

“We are sharpening all of our tools,” she said.

Seeing the community rally to support the philharmonic has been morale booster for the tiny staff and the musicians.

“The orchestra’s morale was down, people in the office were discouraged and not sleeping at night,” Sanderson said. “Now, they have seen the community assess the philharmonic and see it as a value. That lifted everyone. No one has to wonder.”

So far, ticket sales for the first half the 2014-15 season have been “good,” Miller said. In a highlight of the second half of the season, the Philharmonic will be joined by internationally-known violinist Anne Akiko Meyers on May 8. Meyers made headlines and history last year. The anonymous buyer who paid a price reportedly in excess of $16 million for the legendary Vieuxtemps Guarneri violin offered Meyers lifetime use of the violin. She will be playing the instrument during her appearance with the philharmonic.

While ticket sales have improved this season, the philharmonic, like most orchestras, continues to rely heavily on charitable donations to round out the budget.

“For even the best orchestras in the country, ticket sales account for 35 to 40 percent of the operating budget,” Miller said. “So fundraising is never-ending.”

 

Courtesy of the Citizen’s Voice
By: David Falchek
Published: January 2, 2015