Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra leaders say they are looking at ways to cut costs and sell more tickets after recently posting a $1.8 million deficit for the past fiscal year.
The shortfall was largely due to a drop in donations, MSO president Mark Niehaus told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The orchestra was able to avoid deficits during the previous two fiscal years because it received large gifts near the end of those years.
The orchestra had a $2.5 million deficit at the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year.
"This organization is overly reliant on annual contributed income," Niehaus told the newspaper.
MSO board chairman Douglas M. Hagerman said the orchestra must cut costs and sell more tickets.
Niehaus said the orchestra won't reduce the number of classical concerts it performs; staff members are looking at other ways to reduce costs. He also said the orchestra wasn't looking at musicians' contracts to reduce costs. When orchestra members renewed their union contract last year, they gave up most of a previously planned raise for this season.
One issue for the orchestra has been its inability to book more dates in December at the Marcus Center's Uihlein Hall, which is also used by the Milwaukee Ballet, Florentine Opera and touring Broadway shows. As a result, the orchestra plays its "Messiah" concerts in churches with smaller capacities.
"You can't charge someone a premium ticket price when they're sitting on hardwood seats," Niehaus said.