The State of the SSO

Each fall as we’re getting ready to launch a new season, I get to take some time to look back at the past year and reflect on the “state of the SSO”.  I have to admit that this is always a great chore – but particularly with this past season, there was much to be proud about.

The SSO is in a state of growth – measured and steady, but still rapid growth.  In Season 86 we added two new series to our programming, we embarked on a collaborative week of Mozart Festival-ing, and we continued to grow our subscriber base.  This is remarkable news…we are making more music, and bringing it to more people, and engaging with more of our community.  We have used what we do as a means for dialogue about how we can connect more, and I think we’re doing a very good job of that.  We’re always striving to improve the lives of our musicians, so last season our spending on artistic expenses went up – a great reason for a growing budget.  The growth at the SSO is driven by a growth in our music community.

We formed a lot of great relationships that will play a big role in the future of music in Saskatoon – the most important of which is the Memorandum of Understanding we signed with the University of Saskatchewan.   This one-of-a-kind partnership outlines the common goals and aspirations the two institutions have for the province.  While the musical intersection of the SSO and U of S has always been evident, we’re going to strive to see how we can connect music with the University’s wider search for knowledge.  While its too early to say much, we are excited about a medical research project that involves the SSO in the upcoming year.

Share in the Future was again a resounding success – with donations and the generous support of the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation, the campaign raised more than $240,000 in just two months.  This not only paves the way for the SSO to continue embarking on its dreams, but allows for some very cool projects that we get to announce before too long!

With the AGM this week we’re announcing that I have officially signed on for four more years as Executive Director at the SSO.  In my time with the orchestra I have come to be so immensely proud of the work we do, both on and off stage.  I am grateful for exceptional staff who are at the ready when I walk in and say “I have an idea”.  We are all grateful for the incredibly generosity of our volunteers – from the board, to the concerts, to the amazing Book and Music Sale…the volunteers of the SSO show that making music together is more than just playing an instrument.  It is their dedication that keeps the orchestra playing.  I’m thrilled to work with such amazing musical colleagues who have such a love and passion for what they do – and continually grateful to have Eric, a musical partner in crime that likes to dream as much as I do.

To our audience and supporters and fans – thank you.  You seem to have decided that coming along for this ride is worth it.  It is an honour to bring concerts to the stage for an audience who will take risks, knows great music when they hear it, and will support it with their generosity.

What’s next in the new age of the SSO?  We have more expanding to do – we want to connect more young people with live music, we want to create more opportunities for our musical community, we want to give patrons a chance to get the music they need.  We want to keep connecting with the community in different and hopefully get out to perform across our region again!  We need to keep working harder to ensure that the SSO is artistically and fiscally sound – we finished season 86 with a significant surplus of approximately $60,000…I’d like to do that for a few years in a row!

And we need you to come to concerts, to get lost in sweeping symphonic works, to get inspired by breath taking soloists, and to hear music that is going to make you feel alive.  We want you to feel special about a night at the symphony.  And we want our musicians to play to packed houses – this orchestra is something we should all take pride in.

I’d like to invite you to join us to celebrate the new year ahead – we couldn’t have a bigger star for opening night than James Ehnes.  A super star violinist to share in a night with Saskatoon’s orchestra….its only fitting if you’re there to celebrate with us!

See you at the symphony,

Mark Turner
Executive Director

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