The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Focus on the Arts

December 30, 2012

Raising funds a challenge

JOHNSTOWN — Music and money can make a sweet sound when done in harmony.

Current Johnstown Symphony Orchestra president Bill Locher served as treasurer from the time he joined the board in 2003 until he was elected president in 2010.

He clarified that the treasurer’s role  is not preparing check to pay expenses, which is handled by the office staff.

“The role of the treasurer is to oversee the budget, chair the finance committee and be responsible for oversight for fiscal and financial status,” Locher said. “The treasurer also gives guidance to the staff and reviews financial statements monthly and endowments quarterly.

“One of the primary roles is to work with auditors and see the organization operates within the budget.”

The current treasurer is Gregor T. Young IV, president and CEO of AmeriServ Trust and Financial Services Co.

Like any other nonprofit, Johnstown Symphony Orchestra has expenses.

The orchestra must pay rent to Pitt-Johnstown for use of Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center in Richland Township, site of its performances.

“That comes out of our operating expenses,” Locher said. “We’re their largest tenant and have an annual lease.”

Then there’s the rental of office space and utility bills.

All members of the orchestra are paid musicians rather than community volunteers.

Locher said total salaries, wages, benefits, orchestra compensation and orchestra travel make up 45 to 50 percent of the annual operating budget.

Within that amount, orchestra compensation and orchestra travel make up a little more than one-third the total.

Marketing and advertising expenses are 9 to 10 percent of the budget.

“We have every expense a for-profit business has,” Locher said. “Our annual operating budget is $550,000 to $600,000, and every season we have to fund raise to meet that amount. It’s a challenge and why it’s important to note that total revenue from ticket sales is 12 to 15 percent of operating expenses.”

Locher added that even if the arts center was filled for every concert, the revenue from ticket sales would only grow to 20 to 25 percent.

“Ticket sales are important because they bring in an audience,” Locher said.

“The symphony wouldn’t want to play to an empty house. That’s why community support is vitally important.”

Even though the symphony has corporate sponsors, there is still a need to raise funds.

The major fundraiser is the opera festival, held every year in September. It brings in 30 to 35 percent of the symphony’s revenue.

An annual sustaining fund drive, which kicks off every January, brings in 20 percent.

“It’s an appeal to members of the community who wish to support the orchestra,” Locher said.

The symphony’s auxiliaries, in Johnstown and Somerset, also raise funds that account for 5 percent of revenues.

The Johnstown auxiliary was established in 1958 and the Somerset auxiliary in 1964.

The Johnstown auxiliary is known for its annual fashion show, and the Somerset auxiliary holds a food tasting event.

“They operate independently of the JSO and have their own boards and officers,” Locher said.

“They were formed solely to fund raise. Every member of the auxiliaries and trustee and advisory boards are unpaid volunteers.”

Through its Share the Music program, the symphony is giving back to the community.

When complimentary corporate tickets go unused, they can be donated back to the symphony so they can be sent to those who normally wouldn’t get the chance to attend a symphony performance.

“It’s a ticket exchange program where excess tickets are made available to organizations such as Goodwill, Learning Lamp, United Cerebral Palsy and Beginnings,” Locher said. “The objective is to give people with no financial means to pay for a ticket the chance to see a concert free.

The symphony’s outreach events do not always have a full orchestra when taken into nontraditional venues.

“We want to expand our audience and be community relevant,” Locher said. “This is live, classical music for those who’ve never heard a full orchestra before.”

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