Musical curtain has closed on a good year

June 7, 2009
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When the Grand Rapids Symphony opens its 80th season Sept. 18, the organization’s new president and CEO hopes the next fiscal year will be at least as good as the last one.

“We were very grateful that during this tough economic time we had a great year,” said Peter Kjome, who was appointed to the post last August.

Kjome recently told members of the Convention and Arena Authority, the symphony’s landlord at DeVos Performance Hall, that the orchestra grossed more than $10 million in revenue last year and that each ticket buyer contributed about $28 to the city’s economy through things like dining out.

Kjome said the symphony played 160 events last season at various locations, and attendance averaged 1,000 patrons for all performances, meaning about 160,000 heard the symphony play. Concertgoers, he said, spent an average of $60 in tandem with each performance; the average ticket price to a GRS event was $35.

Kjome said revenue from ticket sales was up by 6 percent for the season and financial support for the symphony’s annual fund was 2 percent above last year’s mark. But he noted revenue to the endowment fund had declined substantially from previous seasons.

The symphony’s budget is $8.6 million.

“Expenses are in line right now; they’re below last year,” he said.

GRSO is one of four arts groups that rent DeVos Performance Hall from the CAA. It is the tenant with the most events in the building each year.

Through April, the 10th month of the CAA’s fiscal year, 127 events were held in the hall, 24 more than last year. Those events drew 142,681 paying customers, for $667,044 in total event revenue — roughly $30,000 more than last year.

Revenue to the performance hall accounted for nearly 19 percent of all event income to DeVos Place. Only event income from conventions and consumer shows was higher.

Kjome came to the symphony after eight years with 3M Co. in St. Paul, where he managed and directed the strategic planning for the firm’s consumer and office business segment. Before joining 3M in 2000, Kjome played oboe with the Grand Rapids Symphony for eight years and was principal oboist from 1992 to 1998. He also served on the GRS board for three years.

“He has the mind of a businessman and the heart of a musician,” said GRS board of directors Chairman Jim Preston last August.

Kjome told the CAA that the GRS board recently adopted a new five-year strategic plan that will build audiences for performances and expand the educational programs.

“We are a leader in educational programs, and we can use that to make our audiences grow,” he said.

As for DeVos Performance Hall, Kjome said he liked the changes that were made to the hall when DeVos Place was being built.

“It’s a marvelous building,” he said. “We are honored to play there.”

The symphony’s Picnic Pops series gets under way July 9 at Cannonsburg Ski Area.

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