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Orchestra expects budget deficit

By JOHN FLEMING, Times Performing Arts Critic
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 30, 2003

TAMPA - The Florida Orchestra will probably wind up this season in the red. That's the projection of executive director Leonard Stone, who said the deficit could be as high as $600,000 when the fiscal year ends June 30.

"We're digging hard, we're working hard, we're doing everything we can, but I would be less than realistic if I said we're going to come in with a balanced budget," Stone said Thursday.

The orchestra, with a budget of $8.5-million, launched a campaign in April to raise $500,000 to match a grant of $500,000 from anonymous donors for a total of $1-million. The campaign has been a success, Stone said.

"We're going to make that, but that includes money that was already projected to come in in April, May and June," he said. "The match has been a terrific, enormous help in getting us close to where we wanted to go."

Stone said the orchestra had not wanted to be overambitious with the campaign. He pointed to the Fort Lauderdale-based Florida Philharmonic, which announced that it needed to raise $20-million in a short period to survive. The Philharmonic folded last month.

"We were very careful when we picked that $1-million figure," Stone said. "We did not want to be seen to be going for something that was unreachable. We paid very careful attention to what was going on in Fort Lauderdale. Nobody knew what the heck they needed."

Many orchestras around the country have been warning of deficits this season due to the weak economy, and several others have suspended operations or gone out of business.

Stone is not sure what the orchestra might expect in the way of funding from the state in the next fiscal year. The budget passed by the Legislature this week includes deep cuts in arts funding.

"We had been getting $115,000 a year," he said. "We've budgeted for half of that."

The orchestra winds up the season with two concerts this weekend. Tonight, three piano concertos with three soloists - Misha Dichter, Orli Shaham and Andre-Michel Schub - are played at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Saturday, there's a fundraising concert called "Mozart, Motown & More" at A La Carte Pavilion Ballroom in Tampa.

Stone is counting on a silent auction Saturday. "We hope to clear $75,000 from the Saturday benefit if the silent auction is reasonable; if it's astonishing, we could do more," he said.

Amy Schwartz Moretti, the orchestra's concertmaster, is artistic director of the new Summer Chamber Music Workshop, which will be at the Mahaffey Theater at Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg on July 14-18. It's for intermediate and advanced student performers from middle school through college. Tuition is $250 plus a $25 application fee. Some scholarships are available. For information, call executive director Cindi Samaha, (727) 527-7525; or email csamaha1@tampabay.rr.com

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