Houston Symphony takes its recession hits, too
Here we go again. The whole Houston Symphony Orchestra -- staff and musicians -- goes on furlough next week to save money. Various other cost-cutting measures will go into effect there as well, including the extraordinary step of leaving the concertmaster vacancy unfilled, the Houston Chronicle reports.
As you will recall, when the Baltimore Symphony announced its pay cuts and furloughs, some of the blame was placed on the drop in endowment value, caused when investment markets began their steep decline. When you lose something like $20 million in endowment value, you're talking big trouble. That's the situation being faced by the BSO, Houston Symphony and others. The change in endowment means that the annual draw (usually five percent) that nonprofits count on either yields much less than anticipated a year earlier, when the budgets are put together, or, worse, yields zero (the value of the BSO's endowment, at about $38 million, is officially underwater -- below the original dollar value of contributions -- and no draw can be taken).
It doesn't look like things are going to improve anytime soon, unless Wall Street suddenly experiences a historic boom to counter its historic descent. I imagine we'll be seeing lots of soul-searching, not to mention game- and model-changing, at orchestras and opera companies everywhere in the months ahead.