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The Cleveland Orchestra held Annual Meeting on December 11, 2018 — the 100th Anniversary of the Orchestra’s very first performance

Annual Meeting showcased Centennial Celebrations, reported financial news, elected trustees, and laid out a vision for the future

The evening concluded with special chamber music performance by members of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, followed by cake for group’s 100th Birthday

CLEVELAND – The Annual Meeting of the Musical Arts Association, the governing non-profit body for The Cleveland Orchestra, was held on Tuesday evening, December 11, at Severance Hall.  The meeting took place exactly 100 years to the day from the Orchestra’s inaugural concert on December 11, 1918, and included a celebratory 100th birthday cake at the evening’s end and a chamber music performance by members of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra to mark the official conclusion of the Orchestra’s Centennial Celebrations.

The Annual Meeting was led by Richard K. Smucker, whose title was changed from President to Chair of the Board in a restructuring that was approved during the evening as part of this year’s meeting.  The event also featured a look back at Centennial Celebrations over the past 18 months, the election and re-election of trustees, and updates on the institution’s financial health (including results for fiscal year 2017-18). 

André Gremillet, whose title was changed from Executive Director to President & CEO, discussed a vision for the Orchestra’s growth and innovation in the coming decades, followed by a presentation about past achievements and future potential for the institution’s Legacy Giving efforts through the Heritage Society. 

“Tonight marks a very important and historic milestone,” said Richard K. Smucker at the start of the evening.  “Exactly 100 years ago tonight, just weeks after the conclusion of the First World War, the musicians of Cleveland’s Symphony Orchestra — what soon became known as The Cleveland Orchestra — played their first concert downtown at Grays Armory.  As befitting so much of what we do each and every year to support and enhance the Greater Cleveland community, that first concert was a benefit event for another organization, Saint Anne’s Church of Cleveland Heights.  Across these first one hundred years, the community we serve has remained at the forefront of our efforts, as we offer great music, strong music education programs, play a committed role in the larger region, and proudly celebrate the best hometown any orchestra could ever ask for.”

Smucker continued:  “Over the past year and a half, we have celebrated, marked and commemorated The Cleveland Orchestra’s 100th Anniversary, as well as the 50th Anniversary of our splendid summer home, Blossom Music Center.  The Centennial has been filled with musical significance, historic firsts, and performances on three continents, on television and radio.  We raised money from thousands of generous donors, and we offered plenty of festive celebration — both for the Orchestra itself and for the community we serve.  We’ve celebrated not just what has happened over the past 100 years, but what is happening today — everything that The Cleveland Orchestra is doing, for education, for families, for students, for new audiences and longtime friends, for the community at large, for everyone involved. Everything we do is from our hearts.  We offer extraordinary musical experiences, with great music that makes a difference and matters to people.  We carry the name of Cleveland around the world, not just as a great orchestra, but representing a great city and great region.”

Smucker welcomed Cleveland City Councilmember Kevin Conwell to the stage, for the presentation of a special resolution of congratulations and plaque from the City Council, on the occasion of the Orchestra’s 100th birthday.

Smucker’s remarks introduced a video showcasing the Orchestra’s Centennial events alongside the depth and breadth of the Orchestra’s impact on and commitment to the Northeast Ohio community.  The video is available on YouTube here:

Smucker also proudly announced statistics of the number of people who have been involved in the Centennial Celebrations and performances, with the Orchestra touching a total of 400,000 across the region in the past year, plus many more beyond Ohio and around the world.

“But, after all the celebrating,” Smucker concluded, “there is much yet to do to ensure that the good we are doing continues and expands.  This Orchestra sets the bar higher with every year, and we will continue innovating, performing, educating, and thrilling audiences today and for future generations to come.”

A discussion of the Orchestra’s financial health and most recent year-end results reported that the institution’s Endowment stood at $191 million at the end of June 2018.  Although this figure was largely unchanged from a year previously, the Endowment saw solid investment gains and new contributions throughout the year; endowment funds were used for the annual draw to operations and to advance payments on generous gifts accelerating funding of the musicians’ pension.  There was an overall improvement in the Orchestra’s assets, obligations, and support.  The deficit for the 2017-18 fiscal year was $1.3 million, down from $4.2 million the previous year.  Ticket sales and touring fees reached $15 million (including a record high of nearly $1.4 million for the Orchestra’s annual Christmas Concerts).  The total of all annual gift donations and fundraising approached $23 million.  (Related attendance figures for the year are found in a section following the main body of this news release; a condensed version of the institution’s audited financial statements for fiscal year 2017-18 was passed out at the meeting and is available upon request.)

“Our Centennial Celebrations have been exciting and have appropriately celebrated our great community that has made and continues to make The Cleveland Orchestra what it is today,” said André Gremillet, the Orchestra’s President & CEO.  “And let me begin by thanking Richard Smucker personally and from all of us, for his leadership and stewardship throughout these festivities.  Richard chaired our Centennial Planning Committee, and with his wife Emily, pledged an extraordinarily generous gift toward the Orchestra’s future, while also helping us raise funding specifically for and surrounding our Centennial activities.  And, in fact, let me take a moment to thank all our funders through the Centennial — to the thousands of generous individuals, corporations, foundations, and government agencies that help make each season possible.  With special thanks to our Second Century sponsors, who stepped up to make the Centennial such a great success, both in Ohio and around the world.”

Gremillet continued:  “As mentioned by Richard, there is much good news in what we have accomplished — but there is also much for us to do in continuing to ensure The Cleveland Orchestra’s success going forward.  Every generation helped shape this institution’s vision for the future, and worked tirelessly to make those plans into reality.  With the completion of the Centennial, we now begin a Second Century in service to the people of Cleveland and Ohio, but also to music lovers from all over the world.”

“Under the exciting and uncompromising artistic leadership of Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, The Cleveland Orchestra is recognized among the very best and most innovative ensembles around the world.  Rather than being satisfied with an Orchestra that is already second to none, Franz and our musicians continue to refine their music-making and to elevate the artistry and the impact they bring to our community.  As we move forward into this next one-hundred years, it is more important than ever that The Cleveland Orchestra continue its evolution so as to even better serve its dynamic and diverse community.

“To do so, we must be as innovative and effective offstage as we are onstage.  We must build further on our success in attracting young audiences.  We must build on a century of focused and successful education and community programs to touch every student in our region through the power of music, to strengthen this city and this region by evolving and growing our offerings for tomorrow’s audiences.  We must make Severance Hall — one of the world’s great concert halls — even better: to meet, match, and exceed changing audience expectations in terms of both technological capabilities and to offer a new level of patron experience second to none.  We must continue embracing unique and varied artistic projects that challenge The Cleveland Orchestra as artists and nourish Cleveland audiences with musical experiences of extraordinary beauty and power, and that resonate intellectually and emotionally.”

“Our path to accomplish these goals will require everyone’s commitment and effort,” concluded Gremillet.  “We must continue hiring the best talent, commit ourselves to challenging goals, and inspire the ongoing generous support of this magnificent hometown community.  Financially, we are making headway, step by step.  But we can never be satisfied with last year’s successes.”

Gremillet introduced a presentation about the Orchestra’s Legacy Giving program.  Started in the early 1990s, membership in the Heritage Society today is doing exactly as it was intended to do —inspiring new gifts and providing ongoing annual growth through gifts to the Endowment Fund.  Trustee Jon Lindseth, who chairs the board’s Legacy Giving Committee, reported on past achievements, presented numbers, and future goals for the program, which will help power the institution’s overall plans for financial growth, continuing artistic and educational innovation, and evolving patron services. 

As is customary for the Orchestra’s Annual Meeting, following the election of trustees and re-election of renewing trustees, a brief Board Meeting was also held for the election of officers and select committee members for the coming year.  The title changes of board officers and the institution’s top staff leader were recommended by the Board’s Nominating and Governance Committee to bring The Cleveland Orchestra in line with board/staff nomenclature and structuring at other major orchestras and performing arts organizations in the United States and internationally. 

The evening concluded with Mozart’s Divertimento in D major, K.136, for strings, performed by three members of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra — Kaylee Bontrager (violin), Ginger Deppman (viola), and Zach Keum (cello), playing together with Cleveland Orchestra violinist Yun-Ting Lee.  Following the performance, celebratory 100th birthday cake was served to Board Members, Orchestra members, and staff in the Smith Lobby of Severance Hall.

One other change for this year’s Annual Meeting, in a sign of ongoing evolution both within and outside The Cleveland Orchestra, for the first time in nearly half a century, was that an extensive printed Annual Report was not handed out.  “Times change,” commented André Gremillet.  “It’s not that we aren’t sharing information.  In fact, we’ve come to realize that we are sharing more information, more often with more constituents, and through a variety of channels.  We intend to spend the time and efforts that have traditionally gone into creating the larger Annual Report to instead create different types of smaller reports that help everyone understand and keep up-to-date with the Orchestra’s successes, goals, and needs throughout the year.”


By the Numbers:  Touching People’s Lives

The 2017-18 season and summer of 2018 reached thousands locally and around the globe:

  • All told, The Cleveland Orchestra touched the lives of more than 400,000 people from across the Northeast Ohio in the past year.
  • Northeast Ohio figures include over 100,000 students and adults who participated and were invigorated and inspired by education presentations and community programs.
  • Over 165,000 people attended Orchestra concerts at Severance Hall, including 31 sold-out presentations.  (Another 50,000 attended a wide variety of rental events and performances at Severance Hall.)
  • The Centennial Season’s “Around the Region” Tour featured 20 performances witnessed by over 25,000 people, and was experienced by tens of thousands more statewide via the telecast made possible in collaboration with media partner ideastream®, of our 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration concert
  • Blossom Music Center:  The summer of 2018 commemorated the 50th Anniversary of Blossom, welcoming more than 138,500 music-lovers to the Orchestra’s Festival concerts — 20,000 more than the year before and the highest in 20 years.  This represented an average of 7,250 per concert, the second highest average in the Festival’s history.  (An additional 395,000 attended 28 non-orchestral concerts presented at Blossom by LiveNation.)
  • As part of the ongoing efforts of the Orchestra’s Center for Future Audiences, the “Under 18s Free” program helped 40,000 young people and their families attend concerts at Severance Hall and Blossom Music Festival.
  • In addition, 50,000 people attended Cleveland Orchestra concerts away from home, including two weeks of concerts in Miami (4 public concerts and 2 education concerts), a European tour in October 2017 (12 concerts), two performances at Carnegie Hall, and performances of The Prometheus Project (10 performances, 5 in Vienna and 5 in Tokyo) in spring 2018.
  • Many more experienced the Orchestra’s performances on radio, television, as well as online through streaming, video and sound recordings.