The state of the SSO

We’re at the half way point of the season – after my first year with the SSO, I want to take some time to take stock of things.

Over the course of the last 12 months we’ve made an exceptional amounts of changes at the SSO:

  • We changed how we budget – long term budget development has allowed us to take a serious look at how the organization needs to plan for each concert, each decision, future growth, new programs, and assessing how our financials meet the musical needs of Saskatoon.
  • We’ve drastically changed how we spend money – we’ve been strategically cutting expenses, but I’m proud to say that we can cut expenditures and still present incredible programming; and speaking of programming.  No more over spending, those days are gone.
  • We changed the way we program – we acknowledged the fact that our audiences deserve programming that fulfills their musical needs.  Its not enough to just ‘put on a concert’, it has to be an artistic experience, an event that gives something to the audience.
  • We implemented a strategic plan – it covers everything from a commitment to long term fiscal responsibility to improving performance quality
  • We have been working on a development overhaul – until this past year, the SSO had a non-existent donor database.  I’m excited to say that our new database is up and running – it will completely change the way we work with our supporters, and allow us to develop new initiatives.
  • We are getting interactive – whether you’re experiencing the opportunity to sing in our new chorus, enjoying getting social with us online, or voting on the last performance of the year, we’re making huge strides involving patrons in the process
  • We are enjoying the benefits of all of the above – each and every concert in the first half of the season saw a surplus.  Its not only financially satisfying, its been wonderful to see such large audiences engaging in their orchestra!
  • We’ve committed to creating artistic opportunities for Sask artists – how exciting it is that a kid can grow up in a farm in Saskatchewan, fall in love with music, get inspired by prairie skies, go off to find a career, and return to be celebrated by their own orchestra – that is one of the best parts of the whole year
  • We have hired a new music director – 77 phenomenal candidates all boiled down to one.  One exceptional musician.  A visionary with big dreams whose commitment to defining a higher artistic standard will redefine the music scene.  A conductor who is as comfortable on the Masters stage as they are biking to an indie concert.

These achievements are remarkable – its a testament of the leadership of the board, a hardworking staff, and most importantly musicians who showed us how beautifully they can play Mozart!  Its owed in large part to our supporters…our stakeholders.  The people who are not just enthusiastic about music, but are showing up to concerts and helping us rediscover what the orchestra means to Saskatoon and beyond.

So its time to tackle a hurdle.  The SSO had too many years of not being fiscally responsible.  It is truly the most frustrating part of my job – its a reality created before I got here and a mountain too big to move on my own.  Its the deficit.  Everyone tells me that no one likes to talk about a deficit, but when I joined the SSO I promised that I would be frank and honest about the organization…and its time to move ahead.

With the present state of the SSO, the organizational health we’re experiencing, we can actually deal with the deficit and stop the cycle.  If we’re going to create a great orchestra that people across the country will take note of, we have to recover from the past and commit to the future.

By getting rid of the deficit the SSO can effectively invest in our community – facilitate long term planning for raises for the orchestra musicians, expand our educational programming, reach out to our surrounding communities, attract world renowned guest artists, create new projects that flex the artistic muscles of our arts scene.  If we can achieve such great accomplishments in the last 12 months, just think of where we’re headed.

We have one last major step to take.  And we’re about to take it.

See you at the symphony,
Mark Turner

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