Not Fiddling Around

June 27, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — What she had to say was music to their ears, almost like they were hearing a Brahms violin concerto that had been spiked with a few, well-placed ka-chings just below the sound of the soaring strings.

Grand Rapids Symphony President Melia Tourangeau told members of the Convention and Arena Authority last week that life in DeVos Performance Hall was better than good.

"We are expecting a healthy surplus at the end of the year," said Tourangeau of the orchestra's fiscal year that ends on Aug. 31 following the symphony's Picnic Pops season at Cannonsburg Ski Area.

"We know we're going to be very successful," she added.

A successful symphony is vital for the board, which is responsible for operations at the performance hall and the larger

DeVos Place
, where the hall resides. Board members are counting on the symphony to draw nearly 87,000 paying patrons to the 51 playing dates it has in the hall for the upcoming fiscal year. The symphony has been projected to account for nearly 20 percent of the hall's total event income in FY06, a figure just under $200,000 of the slightly less than $1 million the hall is expected to gross.

Tourangeau said the symphony's budget would be $8.1 million for the new fiscal year, its 76th, but down about $500,000 from the 75th anniversary year that was capped in May with a performance in New York's Carnegie Hall. She added that the orchestra would stage 80 ticketed concerts at various locations during the next season and that single-ticket sales were up by more than 28 percent from the previous season.

"We touch over 275,000 every season through our performances," she said.

Tourangeau went on to say that the symphony has over 1,500 donors and more than 10,000 subscribers, a number that helped the orchestra exceed its subscription goal by $40,000.

She also admitted that she was still reveling over the Carnegie Hall appearance, which was attended by 1,200 from Grand Rapids, and from a New York Times review that read, "This orchestra gives a glimmer of hope for all of us in the music world." The symphony will release a compact disc of the Carnegie Hall concert in September.

"We're so proud of what you do," said CAA Chairman Steven Heacock.

After having performed in New York and Detroit the past two seasons, Tourangeau said the orchestra would concentrate its efforts in the Midwest in the coming seasons. She said the organization's three goals are to establish long-term sustainability through technology and different concert formats; to create a long-term plan that would increase the symphony's endowment; and to help make a new performance hall a reality.

"David Lockington would like that to be a part of his legacy," said Tourangeau of the orchestra's music director and resident conductor.

Tourangeau said until a new performance center is built in the city the current hall's four tenants wouldn't be able to grow. And as DeVos Place becomes busier with conventions, finding open dates in the hall is likely to get more difficult.

But she said everybody involved with the symphony was pleased with the renovations that Grand Action made last summer to DeVos Performance Hall.

"I think the architects did a very good job respecting the acoustics," said Tourangeau. "The aesthetics of the building are a million times better. Our patrons really appreciate that."    

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