The Fort Wayne Philharmonic will fold its Chamber Series concerts into its Masterworks series concerts next season as it tries to reduce an accumulated budget deficit expected to total more than $2.3 million.
The Phil will expand the Masterworks series to 10 concerts next season — one more than this year — and will incorporate “chamber-size” musical works into some of the performances, said J.L. Nave III, the Phil's president and CEO.
The Philharmonic Chorus, which performed at three Choral Chamber Series concerts this past season, will perform at three Masterworks series concerts next season, he said.
The Phil won't offer the Chamber Series' four morning Coffee Concerts and four evening After Hours concerts, all of which took place at the Arts United Center. It will continue to offer its Freimann Series chamber concerts, which offer music by a small ensemble in an intimate setting.
Other changes or additions to the orchestra's summer schedule and regular season could be announced within the next week or two, Nave said.
“We are always working on new ways to increase revenue,” he added, noting increased revenue would reduce the need to cut expenses.
Nave expects the Phil to end the current fiscal year June 30 with a financial deficit of about $670,000 for the year, which is what they budgeted, he said. He likely won't know the final number until late August.
“We still are very actively pursuing donations, and they are coming in,” he said.
This year's budget shortfall comes on top of an accumulated deficit of $1.7 million the Phil carries forward from about the past 10 years, Nave said.
“Obviously, we want to get to a balanced budget as fast as we can,” he said.
The Phil's situation is not unusual: Orchestras around the country have struggled financially in recent years with the downturn in the economy and the aging of their traditional audience base.
The sluggish economy has hurt the Phil, which grew in 1990s, Nave said.
The orchestra also has had to adapt to a shift in its audience — from concert series subscribers to people who buy tickets for a single event, he said. The Phil now has to invest more in promoting each concert to attract those individual ticket buyers.
Average per concert attendance figures for The Phil show this season slightly behind that of the previous year for the Masterworks and Pops series, up by 20 people per concert to nearly 100 for Freimann series concerts, and virtually unchanged at about 245 people for Chamber series concerts.
Orchestra staff also are in negotiations with Phil musicians, whose labor contract expires at the end of this season. Nave declined to say if the Phil is seeking concessions from musicians in the new contract.
“We certainly want to work with the musicians to ensure the orchestra is around for many years to come,” he said.