Press Room

Fiscal 2019 Year End Results



Campaign surpasses goal by $10 million to raise a total of $60 million

For Fiscal 2019 Orchestra posts deficit due to a decrease in operations-directed gifts

Artistic highlights include American Expressions festival, the release of two new Mahler recordings and a summer festival celebrating Latin American music

Musicians announce “Hall Pass”—a new initiative to allow young people ages 18 and under to attend classical concerts for free


The Minnesota Orchestra’s 2019 Annual Meeting today marks the milestones of the Orchestra’s 2018-19 season, a year in which the Orchestra celebrated American music in a three-week American Expressions festival; mounted the genre-blurring masterwork La Pasión según San Marcos in its first-ever Minnesota performances; and greeted audiences from every one of Minnesota’s 87 counties at Orchestra Hall. Musicians announced a new initiative to allow young people ages 18 and under to attend all classical concerts for the remainder of the 2019-2020 season for free, underwritten by the Bellwether Fund.

On the financial front, it was a year in which the Orchestra concluded a $50 million campaign, surpassing the original goal by $10 million to raise $60 million in major gifts; however, the organization posted an $8.8 million deficit that is largely due to a decrease in operations-directed major gifts.

“We are deeply appreciative of the exceptional support from those who contributed to our campaign over the last several years,” said Board Chair Margaret A. Bracken. “This quiet campaign surpassed its goal with generous gifts from a small circle of Board members and donors who are committed to an inspiring, relevant and enduring Orchestra that honors Minnesota’s distinct musical reputation.”

Said President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns, “It may seem counter-intuitive to report both an enormously successful fundraising campaign and an operational shortfall, but this year we face both of those realities. While our campaign was very successful, more gifts were directed to the endowment rather than current operations, contributing to the shortfall. Our path forward is through a carefully-defined revenue growth plan that increases both contributed and earned revenue and advances the Orchestra to its full potential through the collaborative efforts of our board, staff, musicians and the greater community.”

At the meeting, Acting Associate Principal Bass Kathryn Nettleman announced that musicians and staff have collaborated to make possible “Hall Pass,” an opportunity for young people 18 years old and under to attend any Minnesota Orchestra classical concert free for the rest of the 2019-2020 season, through June 2020. The initiative, which takes effect in January, is underwritten by the Bellwether Fund, the musician-led fund that supports education and community programming.

“By underwriting ‘Hall Pass - 18 & Under Attend Free!’, the musicians invite kids and their families to share in the joy of inspiring live performances of great orchestral music at Orchestra Hall,” said Nettleman. “Investing in kids’ concert-going experiences today is an ideal way for us as performers to say ‘thank you’ to our wonderful community.”

Artistic Report

Artistic highlights of the 2018-19 season included an American Expressions festival in January led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä that showcased the music of 19 American composers across ten concerts; releasing acclaimed recordings of Mahler’s Symphonies No. 1 and No. 2; a return to Northrop at the University of Minnesota to celebrate the restoration of the venue’s famed pipe organ with the world premiere of John Harbison’s What Do We Make of Bach? featuring organist Paul Jacobs; and a January week-long Common Chords residency in North Minneapolis in which Orchestra musicians and community partners performed 25 free events including a Sing-Along concert at Sanctuary Covenant Church and a community concert at North Community High School. In March, the Orchestra recorded two sold-out performances with singer-rapper Dessa for an album called Sound the Bells that was released by Doomtree Records in November and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Chart for both classical crossover and current classical.

In the summer, the Orchestra’s Música Juntos Sommerfest celebrated Latin American music in a three-week festival that drew 7,000 people in a single day to the free International Day of Music and concluded with two memorable performances of Osvaldo Golijov’s remarkable La Pasión según San Marcos (The Passion According to St. Mark), featuring 61 dancers, singers and instrumentalists from around the world joining the Orchestra, all under the baton of María Guinand.

More than 30,000 students, coming from 285 schools throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, attended one of 22 Minnesota Orchestra Young People’s Concerts at Orchestra Hall, and an additional 3,200 music students received a visit from the Minnesota Orchestra at their high school through the Orchestra’s Symphonic Adventures program.  More than 5,500 music students and their families from across the Twin Cities attended Minnesota Orchestra concerts through the complimentary Send a Student program.

Seven musicians began new positions with the Orchestra in the 2018-19 season, including Associate Principal Oboe Kathryn Greenbank, Associate Concertmaster Felicity James, Principal Timpani Erich Rieppel, Assistant Principal Viola Jenni Seo, violinist Hanna Landrum, and cellists Minji Choi and Erik Wheeler. Flute player Emilio Rutllant began a two-year appointment under the auspices of the Rosemary and David Good Fellowship, which was designed to encourage greater diversity in the orchestral field.  

Residents from every one of Minnesota’s 87 counties attended a performance at Orchestra Hall in Fiscal 2019. In total, the Orchestra performed live for nearly 250,000 people at Orchestra Hall and beyond. The organization’s digital footprint generated more than 42 million impressions on social media and brought over 1 million visits to the Orchestra’s website. Video content expanded the Orchestra’s reach, with 1.2 million video views on Facebook and YouTube, with users spending 3,700 hours watching Orchestra content on YouTube alone.

Campaign Impact

In 2017, the Orchestra launched a focused major gifts campaign to augment its annual fund with additional fundraising each year to invest in artistic excellence. That campaign intended to raise $50 million, with $40 million of the total projected to support operations over four years, and $10 million projected to support the endowment. Generous donors helped the organization surpass that goal in order to raise $60 million in support.

The campaign unfolded differently than anticipated in key areas, a difference that impacts the organization’s audited financial statements in Fiscal 2019: a majority of the gifts received ($40 million) were designated for the endowment rather than for operations ($20 million, all received prior to Fiscal 2019). Nearly 30 percent of the donors made planned gifts, which will only come to fruition in the future.

“This brings us back to the dichotomy of the year: the Orchestra is experiencing both strong fundraising and an operational shortfall,” said Burns. “We are grateful to the donors who supported the Orchestra during the campaign, whether it was through operational support for a season of music making, or through endowment gifts and bequests that will protect the organization’s future.”

Flute player Wendy Williams, who serves as chair of the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians Committee, said: “The musicians are thankful for the generosity of the donors who made this campaign successful and for their investment in the future of the Orchestra. We are committed to working together with our staff, board, and community to advance the revenue growth plan and are grateful for the exciting artistic vision and collaborative relationship we share.”

Revenue Growth Plan

As part of an institution-wide strategic planning process, the Orchestra has launched a multi-year revenue growth plan to increase both contributed and earned revenues. “We will continue to be prudent in managing the organization as we identify opportunities for revenue growth,” said Burns. “On the contributed revenue side, we are developing the next stage of a fundraising campaign that will expand beyond the Orchestra board and immediate circle of supporters. We are simultaneously pursuing a variety of initiatives to significantly diversify the organization’s earned revenue streams over the long term.”

Board Chair Margaret Bracken said, “This is not a time for our organization to pull back and diminish our impact. The Orchestra’s fiscal position remains solid with net assets totaling $176 million and all bond payments for Orchestra Hall recently being paid off. We are in a strong position to focus on embracing significant artistic projects to meet the need for new earned revenue initiatives and to increase the Orchestra’s circle of supporters, and we are buoyed by the spirit of collaboration among musicians, board, staff and fans as we honor the universal language of music and innovate for the future.”

 Total Net Assets in Fiscal 2019

  • The organization’s total net assets for Fiscal 2019 are $176 million.

  • In April 2019, the Orchestra completed the payoff of its revenue bonding for Orchestra Hall, leaving the Hall unencumbered.

Total Expenses in Fiscal 2019

  • Total expenses were $35.4 million compared to the prior year’s $36.4 million.

Contributed Revenue in Fiscal 2019

  • The organization exceeded its annual fund goal by 6 percent, raising more than $8.9 million.

  • Total contributed revenue was $14.5 million, compared to $22 million the prior year. The difference is due to both a decrease in major gifts directed toward operations and the fact that there was no international tour that required special fundraising in 2018-19. (Fiscal 2018 included a South Africa tour.)

  • The total number of donors grew to 12,600, an increase of more than 30 percent over the prior year.

Earned Revenue in Fiscal 2019

  • Total ticket sales reached $7.2 million, achieving the budget for the year.

  • Total capacity for all concerts was 86 percent, compared to the prior year’s 91 percent which was a five-year high. (By comparison, total capacity in Fiscal 2017 and Fiscal 2016 were at 87 percent.)

  • Total earned revenue—which includes revenue from ticket sales, rental opportunities, touring and ticket fees, as well as food, beverage and concession sales—was $9.5 million, compared to $11.7 million in the prior year. The difference is due to several factors, including the fact there was no touring activity and related fees, a budgeted decrease in concert revenue due to changes in the concert mix, and no Super Bowl-related Hall rental activities. 

  • Twenty performances sold out over the course of the year. Thirty-three percent of Orchestra concertgoers were attending a Minnesota Orchestra performance for the first time. The subscription renewal rate in Fiscal 2019 was 87 percent.


Directors elected to a first term: Darren Acheson, Roma Calatayud-Stocks, John Dayton, Jerome Hamilton, Lloyd Kepple, Leni Moore, Brian Tilzer, Patrick Walsh, Laysha Ward

Re-elected Directors (second term): Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., Douglas M. Baker, Jr., Evan Carruthers, Tim Geoffrion, Michael A. Lindsay, William P. Miller, Mary Sumners

Re-elected Directors (third term): Barbara Burwell, Jay Ihlenfeld, Martin R. Lueck, Anne W. Miller

Ex-Officio Directors: Michelle Miller Burns, Mariellen Jacobson, Mary Ella Pratte

Retiring Directors: Karen Lundmark Holmes, Phil Isaacson, Al Lenzmeier, Irene Suddard, John Wilgers

Non-renewing Directors: Maureen Bausch, Hubert Joly, Ravi Norman

Executive Committee: Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., Emily Backstrom, Douglas M. Baker Jr., Margaret A. Bracken, Michelle Miller Burns, Barbara Burwell, Evan Carruthers, Yvonne Cheek, Ph.D., Mark Copman, Paula DeCosse, Betsy Frost, Tim Geoffrion, Luella G. Goldberg, Joseph T. Green, Laurie Hodder Greeno, Jay V. Ihlenfeld, Kathy Junek, Michael Klingensmith, Mary Lawrence, M.D., Nancy E. Lindahl, Michael A. Lindsay, Patrick Mahoney, Kita McVay, Anne W. Miller, William P. Miller, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Jim Watkins, Tim Welsh

Chair                                    Margaret A. Bracken
Chair-Elect                           Joseph T. Green        
Vice Chair                            Nancy E. Lindahl
Vice Chair                             Kita McVay
Vice Chair                             Tim Welsh                            
Secretary                             Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D.
Treasurer                             William P. Miller
President and CEO             Michelle Miller Burns

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