Beaufort News

Beaufort Symphony hits financial woes, seeks help to save season

The Beaufort Symphony Orchestra opened its 30th season on Oct. 22.
The Beaufort Symphony Orchestra opened its 30th season on Oct. 22. Submitted photo

The Beaufort Symphony Orchestra is looking for help to keep from canceling the final events of its season in the face of declining ticket sales and donations.

The group of musicians is celebrating its 30th anniversary after starting as a handful of violinists in 1985. Never has the orchestra had to cut a season short.

But that's a possibility now, according to Ed Like, president of the orchestra's board of directors. He penned an open letter to Beaufort residents this week detailing the orchestra's financial troubles and asking for support. He said the orchestra needs a little more than $30,000.

Ticket sales and donations have been off the mark for the 2015-2016 season, Like wrote, meaning there won't be enough money to pay musicians and meet other obligations unless something is done.

In addition, the Beaufort Symphony Youth Orchestra's season would also be discontinued. The group includes more than 100 children in elementary school through high school, and a 50-member orchestra performs several times each year.

Symphony director Frederick Devyatkin said Like is being proactive while there is still time. Devyatkin said a combination of an ambitious schedule for the 30th anniversary -- with an extra event and marquee soloists -- has added financial pressure.

The symphony emptied its reserves to build a platform for $15,000 when it moved from the USCB Performing Arts Center to Sea Island Presbyterian Church, Like said. Devyatkin expects some of the ground to be made up through ticket sales for upcoming concerts and said the money needed isn't insurmountable.

"Beaufort would be a very different place without a Beaufort Symphony or a Beaufort Symphony Youth Orchestra," Devyatkin said. "You would be subtracting two of the most important cultural institutions by letting it fold."

Appeals to nonprofit organizations for donations have been unsuccessful, board vice president and fundraising leader Fran Newton said Monday.

"We're kind of back to our hard-core audience support," Newton said. "And that group has thinned, I suspect."

The orchestra contracts with musicians for each performance. The number of performers and types of instruments varies based on the pieces selected, with the roles decided with enough time for rehearsal.

A holiday performance scheduled Dec. 17 and Dec. 20 is still on, Newton said. And a February performance is also safe.

But a combined performance with the young musicians scheduled for April at Beaufort High School is in doubt, Newton said, as is a season-ending "Slavic Swing" in May.

Newton pointed to a decline in interest in classical music as well as competition from other outlets as contributing to the orchestra's financial struggles. Moving performances from USCB to Sea Island Presbyterian was met with mixed reviews, Newton added.

To combat the slide, the orchestra is offering a 10 percent discount for buying tickets to three of the remaining four performances. Volunteers are soliciting donations and asking regular concert-goers to bring friends.

Devyatkin said he has to plan classical pieces for a committed audience but noted he has branched out into other genres.

"We booked some really ambitious programs," he said. "People leave our concerts with a big smile on their face."

Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.

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