The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra happily continues to defy tough economic times, which is good not only for the organization but for all of Western New York.
The stewardship of Music Director JoAnn Falletta and Executive Director Dan Hart coupled with the tremendous work of dedicated volunteers, staff and board of trustees have combined to make the BPO the envy of the nation.
All signs point to an upward trajectory in attendance, with ticket sales and subscriptions at an all-time high.
This year marks the seventh time in the last eight years that the orchestra has ended the year with a balanced budget. Its annual report released last month showed an industry-modest cumulative debt of $2.5 million.
The work of the board of trustees, under outgoing Chairwoman Cindy Abbott Letro and current Chairman Louis P. Ciminelli, builds on the successes of the recent years.
Along with the traditional classical music concerts, which have featured some of the world’s greatest musicians, the BPO is working to enlarge its audience with innovations such as the two-week Duke Ellington Festival, Friday morning Coffee Concerts, a new series called “Know the Score” and the heralded “BPO Rocks!” That series, the brainchild of Ciminelli, began with the Indigo Girls and recently hosted Three Dog Night.
But beyond the stable finances and new programs, the BPO is hitting artistic high notes.
The invitation to a return engagement at Carnegie Hall next May for its “Spring of Music” festival is a sign of how highly respected the orchestra is.
None of this could have been achieved without the principals involved, not the least of whom is Falletta, the longtime music director, whose popularity in the community and respect among musicians is well-deserved. Few may realize that she is a part-time resident of Buffalo, because she exhibits full-time devotion.
Contrast this dynamic with the sorry situation at the Rochester Philharmonic, which is buried under an enormous deficit and where, last we checked, the music director and management are communicating only through a mediator.
Falletta’s magnetism adds to the BPO’s luster, as do the orchestra’s recordings, which have gained worldwide renown.
The BPO has managed to avoid the labor disputes that have silenced other orchestras. Over the past couple of years, both Falletta and the orchestra have signed new five-year contracts. The BPO completed a 10-year strategic plan, signed Hart to a four-year contract and balanced the budget both years.
As Letro said, these accomplishments provide stability for the organization. Such cannot be said for other orchestras lacking the cooperation and mutual respect shown by the BPO’s board, management and musicians. Falletta’s continued praise of the musicians, from those freshly graduated from Juilliard or Curtis to the veteran musicians who have played with the BPO for 40 years, is heartfelt.
The good feeling shows in the number of dedicated musicians and staff – the orchestra funds 100 full-time jobs and 300 part-time jobs, for a combined payroll of $7.7 million. Moreover, it shows in the number of out-of-town musicians eager to come here and make Buffalo their home.
The BPO continues to be a model for the nation and a point of pride for Western New York. Bravo!