Charlotte Symphony, hit by recession, looks for donations

CHARLOTTE — Hoping the audiences under the stars will help fight its financial troubles, the Charlotte Symphony will ask people who attend outdoor concerts at SouthPark to donate $5 apiece.

The orchestra has passed the hat at the concerts. But when the SouthPark series kicks off June 7, the group will prod a little harder with the suggested donation, which will apply only to adults.

With the recession compounding several years of sagging finances, the orchestra is aggressively looking for new ways to bring in money, president Jonathan Martin said in a statement.

The SouthPark concerts are “a beloved summertime tradition for tens of thousands of Charlotteans,” Martin said. “We are confident that our audiences recognize and appreciate their value to the community, and will respond in kind.”

Concertgoers who donate the $5 will receive stickers emblazoned “Stand Up For Your Charlotte Symphony.”

Outdoor concerts at other venues, such as Kannapolis' Village Park, will remain free. For those concerts, the orchestra is typically hired by other organizations that pay it a fee and set the terms of admission.

The fees for those concerts, sponsorships by businesses and donations from audiences go toward the concerts' costs. That revenue typically covers less than a fourth of the price tag, according to the orchestra.

The payroll for the players is nearly $400,000 for the month. Other expenses, from guest-conductor fees to rented lighting and sound equipment, add nearly $140,000.

The orchestra has struggled with deficits since the 2002-03 season. This year it is $780,000. Its challenges intensified last week when the Arts & Science Council said it will cut more than $1million from the orchestra for next season.