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Thursday January 25, 2024

Minnesota Orchestra Shares Artistic Highlights and Operating Results for 2022-23 Season

Highlights of the season included the world premiere of landmark work brea(d)th; a week-long residency in Austin, Minnesota; and Thomas Søndergård’s debut as music director designate

Seeing increases in operating and contributed revenue, the Orchestra ended Fiscal 2023 with a $1.1 million surplus

The Board of Directors has elected Joseph T. Green as life director

The Minnesota Orchestra released its operating results today for the organization’s 2022-23 season, a year running from September 2022 to August 2023 in which the Orchestra welcomed Thomas Søndergård for his debut concerts as music director designate; offered its first Young People’s Concerts for in-person student audiences since the start of the pandemic; resumed touring activity with a week-long Common Chords visit to Austin, Minnesota; released an acclaimed album featuring Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony; and performed and recorded brea(d)th by Carlos Simon and Marc Bamuthi Joseph, a new work which captured the despair and hope of America’s unfulfilled promises in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. As the organization continued its rebound from the pandemic, it achieved an operating surplus of $1.1 million on a budget of $42 million, according to audited results. 

“The 2022-23 season saw audiences returning to Orchestra Hall in the highest numbers yet since the pandemic began,” said Board Chair Nancy E. Lindahl. “The enduring connection between the Orchestra and its audiences is a real source of inspiration, with this community of donors and concertgoers continuing to show remarkable support for their Orchestra.” Attendance across all concerts reached a total capacity of 82% in 2022-23, up from the prior year’s 79% and the highest level reached since 2019 when total capacity ended at 87%.   

At the Board of Directors meeting on January 18, 2024, Joseph T. Green was elected as a life director and a new class of 16 board members was inducted. Green joined the Board in 2014 and served a two-year term as chair beginning in January 2021, helping to lead the organization through the most testing time of the pandemic. 


Artistic Report

The Orchestra offered 138 ticketed and free concerts and events during the 2022-23 season for in-person audiences; seven of those performances were also offered as part of the This Is Minnesota Orchestra series for TV, radio and online streaming audiences. Milestones of the season included: 

  • Thomas Søndergård taking the podium for the first-time as music director designate. In this capacity, he led three concerts exploring the music of Lili Boulanger, Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky—and offering a preview of what was to come in the 2023-24 season when his tenure as music director would officially begin. 
  • The organization’s first Listening Project concert, designed to perform and record the music of historically underrepresented composers. Hosted by Dr. Louise Toppin of the African Diaspora Music Project (ADMP) and conducted by Kensho Watanabe, the concert featured the music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Eleanor Alberga, Hale Smith, Adolphus Hailstork, Margaret Bonds and Florence Price. Recordings of the works were shared with both concertgoers and the ADMP in order to support programming of these pieces across the orchestral industry.  
  • The return of in-person student audiences at Young People’s Concerts for the first time since the pandemic began. Nearly 30,000 students participated in these concerts designed specifically for school and home school groups.  
  • The release of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony on the BIS Records label, the eighth album issued in the Orchestra’s multi-year initiative to record all ten Mahler symphonies. Led by Conductor Laureate Osmo Vänskä, the recording was described as “truly exceptional” by BBC Music Magazine. 
  • The world premiere of brea(d)th, a large-scale work for orchestra and chorus by composer Carlos Simon and librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the work situated Floyd’s story in the context of America’s centuries-long history of systemic racism and oppression, and asked listeners to consider, “How do we move forward? What is the breadth of the task at hand? Who does the work that is still left?” In conjunction with the performances, which featured the Minnesota Chorale, 29:11 International Exchange, Twin Cities Choral Partners and Joseph as spoken word artist, the artists of Juxtaposition Arts created a multi-media installation in the Orchestra Hall lobby that was inspired by the composition. The work—which was conducted by Jonathan Taylor Rush—was subsequently released as a live recording by Decca Classics and dubbed a “landmark album” by Forbes Magazine.  
  • A week of concerts and activities in Austin, Minnesota, as part of the Common Chords program which has brought the Orchestra across the state for in-depth residency weeks for more than a decade. Musicians performed 18 events around Austin—all designed in partnership with community leaders—with approximately 5,000 people attending. The experience marked the Orchestra’s first travel since the pandemic.  
  • The Orchestra’s first concert in celebration and remembrance of Juneteenth. Conducted by André Raphel, the program featured retired Supreme Court Justice Alan C. Page, actor and activist Malcolm-Jamal Warner and singer Jevetta Steele.  
  • A celebratory Summer at Orchestra Hall season that brought audiences downtown to experience concerts indoors and out over four weeks in July and August. Curated by pianist and Creative Partner Jon Kimura Parker, the programming explored “Music in Motion” and showcased BRKFST Dance Company as artist in residence. The festival concluded with three sold-out performances featuring Dessa, which were conducted by Principal Conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall Sarah Hicks and shared with a wider audience via livestream and a live broadcast on Twin Cities PBS.  
  • On the administrative front, the season began and concluded with significant events. In September 2022, the Orchestra announced its board and musicians had approved a new four-year collective bargaining agreement—negotiated through a respectful process—that extended through August 31, 2026. And in July 2023, First Avenue announced that the Orchestra would become its strategic partner in developing and operating an 8,000-seat Community Performing Arts Center amphitheater. Located alongside the Mississippi River on the city’s Northside, the venue will offer outdoor concerts for thousands and community programming through partners such as the African American Community Development Corporation. 

“In the last season the Minnesota Orchestra embarked on significant and productive ventures focused on uplifting our community, as we welcomed Thomas Søndergård as music director designate and continued our mission of offering the best symphonic live and digital performances available,” said Associate Principal Flute Greg Milliren, who serves as chair of the Minnesota Orchestra Members Committee. “It’s gratifying to see that these are resonating well with audiences and donors alike. It takes an enormous amount of work behind the scenes to make this all happen, and the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra are incredibly thankful for all that our board and staff tirelessly do annually to support the tradition of musical excellence in Minnesota.”  


Financial Report

Seeing increases in both operating and contributed revenues over the prior year, the Orchestra ended Fiscal 2023 with an operating surplus of $1.1 million on an annual budget of $42 million. The organization’s overall financial position held strong with total net assets increasing by more than two million dollars over the prior year to reach $186 million.

Philanthropic giving remained the cornerstone of the Orchestra’s success. Total contributions—comprising annual fund donations, major gifts, Symphony Ball gifts, trust distributions and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness—reached $32.6 million in Fiscal 2023, compared to $28.8 million in the previous year. The increase in contributions was driven by an increase in major gifts and forgiveness of the federal PPP loan from the pandemic.

On the operating revenue side, the Orchestra continued to see steady improvements following the pandemic. For the first time since 2020, the organization was able to offer a full slate of concerts, including the return of Young People’s Concerts for in-person student audiences, as well as a return to full food and beverage service at concerts and events, and a resumption of more regular rental activity of the facility. All of these factors contributed to total operating revenue reaching $9.5 million, an increase of 17% from the previous year. (Operating income includes revenue from ticket sales, fees, rental opportunities, and food, beverage and concession sales.) Total audience capacity for the 2022-23 season reached 82%. Nearly 230,000 guests attended in-person Minnesota Orchestra concerts and an additional 235,000 watched digitally.  

Total expenses were $42 million in Fiscal 2023, compared to the prior year’s $39 million, reflecting a return to full operations and activities following the pandemic.  

“The 2022-23 season was marked by the most regular operations we’ve experienced in four years,” said President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns. “We saw solid results in both contributed and operating revenue that helped us to return to balanced operations, and we are tremendously grateful to our audiences and donors for all their support. Our path forward involves carefully controlling expenses and increasing earned and contributed revenues as part of our multi-year financial plan, while we continue to grow artistically and as a contributing part of our community, under the artistic leadership of new Music Director Thomas Søndergård.”


Minnesota Orchestral Association Election Results

Directors elected to a first term: Jeannine Befidi, Barbara Burwell, Brandon Carmack, Jay V. Ihlenfeld, Ph.D., Martin R. Lueck, Michael Maeser, Lindsey Main, Kelly McQueen, Linda D. Murrell, Karla Robertson, Lauren W. Routhier, Eric J. Snustad, Julie Howe Stewart, Benhong Rosaline (Roz) Tsai, Ph.D., Robert E. Tunheim, Patrick R. Warfield, Ph.D. 

Re-elected Directors (second term): Barbara Gold, M.D., Philip Isaacson, Allen Lenzmeier, Eric Levinson, Miluska Novota, Erik van Kuijk, M.D., Ph.D., John Wilgers 

Re-elected Directors (third term): Yvonne Cheek, Ph.D., Maurice Holloman, Mary G. Lawrence, M.D., Patrick G. Mahoney 

Ex-Officio Directors: Michelle Miller Burns, Roma Calatayud-Stocks, Karen Lundmark Holmes 

Life Director: Joseph T. Green 

Executive Committee: Nancy E. Lindahl; Emily Backstrom, Michelle Miller Burns, Yvonne Cheek, Ph.D., Barbara Gold, M.D., Luella G. Goldberg, Jerome D. Hamilton, Jr., Jay V. Ihlenfeld, Ph.D., Lloyd Kepple, Michael J. Klingensmith, Mary G. Lawrence, M.D., Allen Lenzmeier, Eric Levinson, Michael A. Lindsay, Martin R. Lueck, Patrick G. Mahoney, Kita McVay, Anne W. Miller, William P. Miller, Leni Moore, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Angela Pennington, Michael Roos, Brian Tilzer, John Wilgers


Chair Nancy E. Lindahl
Chair-Elect William P. Miller
Vice Chair Jerome D. Hamilton, Jr. 
Vice Chair Lloyd Kepple
Vice Chair Michael J. Klingensmith
Vice Chair Allen Lenzmeier
Officer At Large Kita McVay
Secretary Mary G. Lawrence, M.D.
Treasurer Martin R. Lueck
President & CEO Michelle Miller Burns