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Cleveland Orchestra Balances Budget Despite Tough Year

The masked and socially distanced strings of the Cleveland Orchestra rehearse for an on-line performance [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]
The masked and socially distanced strings of the Cleveland Orchestra rehearse for an on-line performance.

For the second year in a row, the Cleveland Orchestra managed to produce a balanced budget despite the millions of dollars lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s numbers were announced at the orchestra’s annual meeting Wednesday. 

Speaking to ideastream before the meeting, CEO Andre Gremillet said the orchestra’s budget balanced around $48 million this year compared with $53 million in 2019, yielding about an $18,000 margin, through a combination of cost-cutting and donations. In addition to salary cuts across the organization, the canceled performance season took away the costs of producing an opera as well as travel.

On the revenue side, it's been what we call extraordinary fundraising and special fundraising,” Gremillet said. “Our donors basically were very generous and came to help.”

In addition to the unintended cost-savings, Gremillet said the pandemic has added a new level of flexibility and innovation to the century-old institution, such as the orchestra’s new streaming app, “Adella.”

Cleveland Orchestra CEO Andre Gremillet [Jean-Marie Papoi]

"But I don't want to appear too optimistic here, because I'm obviously seriously concerned about the coming months and about the uncertain length of this crisis,” Gremillet said, acknowledging that the numbers in this year’s annual report only reflect the first three and a half months of a pandemic that has no end in sight. “Quite frankly, like the pandemic, I think the worst is yet to come in terms of the financial impact for us.”

For now, the CEO said he’ll take the victory of balancing the budget at the end of a tough year.

“There's a long road ahead of us,” he said. 

David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.