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Tafelmusik Orchestra finances witness prudent risk-taking in challenging times

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A view of Tafelmusik’s House of Dreams multimedia show (Donald Lee photo).

In a week when both Toronto Symphony and Canadian Opera annual reports displayed cracks in their financial armor, Tafelmusik has released the results of a much more encouraging fiscal year coinciding with the 2011-12 performance season.

Despite dramatically higher costs with presenting some performances in Koerner Hall and presenting a semi-staged opera there (Handel’s Hercules), Tafelmusik has announced an operating surplus of $17,405 on a budget of $5.4 million.

The budget for the previous, 2010-11, season was $5.1 million, which netted a surplus of $199,000. Although the surplus is down by more than $175,000 on revenues that were $300,000 higher, there was no financial sleight of hand necessary to keep the ledger in the black.

Concert revenue was down by $3,000, but all other sources of income increased.

Because the organization has no debt, Tafelmusik has been putting any annual surpluses into artistic fund, according to general manager Tricia Baldwin. This money then goes toward special projects when it looks like they have been fully funded.

This save first, spend later model allowed Tafelmusik to spend a lot of money on new projects last year, including the development and launch of a new multimedia show, House of Dreams. It also allowed it to build a digital concert space and make other enhancements to its online presence and, most importantly, launch its own recording label, Tafelmusik Media and release 11 albums.

“We own our own creative product,” says Baldwin, who has overseen the steady rise in Tafelmusik’s fortunes over the past 12 years.

Her objective is to have a solid footing for as many new projects as possible.

Coming in the summer of 2013 are projected improvements to the stage, seating and acoustics at the orchestra’s Trinity-St Paul’s Centre home, as well as the launch this coming January of the Tafelmusik Winter Institute, a career-development programme for professional musicians.

“If you don’t take risks, you die,” Baldwin insists. It’s how you manage those risks that’s key, she adds.

John Terauds

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