At Annual Meeting, Detroit Symphony Orchestra announces seventh annual operating surplus and celebrates artistic and community successes

- Fiscal 2019 highlights include fifth consecutive year of ticket revenue growth, an increase from previous year in total contributed revenue, and continued endowment growth

- Currently celebrating the centennial season of its home Orchestra Hall, DSO looks ahead towards increased community engagement, artistic excellence, and Detroit Harmony initiative

Click here to read the DSO’s 2019 Annual Report.

Detroit, (December 12, 2019) – Today, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra celebrated recent artistic highlights, community impact, and financial successes at the Annual Meeting of its Governing Members. The Annual Meeting recapped the 2018-2019 DSO season and 2019 fiscal year, which ended on August 31, 2019.

DSO leadership announced an operating surplus for a seventh consecutive year and ticket revenue growth for a fifth consecutive year, plus an increase in contributed revenue over the previous year and continued endowment growth. Revisions to the orchestra’s ten-year plan, Blueprint 2.0, were also outlined at the meeting; the plan provides a pathway to fiscal stability by the year 2023.

Anne Parsons, Detroit Symphony Orchestra President and CEO, said, “Fiscal stability remains our compass, and we must remain unapologetically aspirational in this regard. At the same time, the DSO also aspires to excellence and impact with every performance, partnership, innovation, and experience we curate. I truly believe that our financial goals are within reach if it becomes the work of the many, rather than the few, and this will inspire even greater achievements, fueling creativity and unleashing our potential to change lives for the better.”

At the meeting, which took place during the centennial season of Orchestra Hall, talk of the DSO’s future abounded, especially in regards to Detroit Harmony – a recently-announced initiative that seeks to put an instrument in the hands of every Detroit student who wants to learn how to play, as well as grow economic opportunity by employing Detroiters in the provision of instruments and music education.

Mark A. Davidoff, Chairman of the DSO Board of Directors, said, “Detroit Harmony is a big, bold idea that is another example of how the DSO is leading the world and our community as a visionary organization. Bringing music education to all will have a transformative effect on our city, and we look forward to partnering with others to create systemic change for the benefit of Detroit’s young people.”

Below are some of the artistic, community, governance, and financial highlights from the DSO’s 2019 Annual Meeting. For more, click here to read the DSO’s 2019 Annual Report.

Season Highlights

  • Music Director Laureate Leonard Slatkin returned to Detroit to conduct five weeks in his first season as Laureate. Major artists like Gil Shaham, Emanuel Ax, Hélène Grimaud, Kent Nagano, Simone Young, and Karina Canellakis all traveled from around the globe to perform with the DSO.

  • The Live from Orchestra Hall webcast series entered its eighth season, reaching more than 200,000 views in all 50 states and over 100 countries. The DSO remains the only major orchestra in the world to webcast all classical programs for free; the series has registered over 2 million views since its inception.

  • The orchestra performed several works by living composers and two world premieres, highlighting music by John Luther Adams, Daníel Bjarnason, Anna Clyne, Sebastian Currier, Philip Glass, Kristin Kuster, Cindy McTee, Andrew Norman, Juliet Palmer (recipient of the DSO’s Lebenbom Award for Female Composers), Steve Reich, Joan Tower, and John Williams.

  • The William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series, in its eighth season, brought the DSO to seven Metro Detroit communities – Southfield, Clinton Township, Beverly Hills, West Bloomfield, Plymouth, Bloomfield Hills, and Grosse Pointe. The number of Chamber Recitals in the community increased in 2018-2019, particularly with the addition of the new Sight & Sound series, a music-and-art partnership with Wasserman Projects.

  • The DSO made a much-anticipated return to Interlochen Center for the Arts in July 2019, performing a concert with conductor Matthias Pintscher and pianist Joseph Moog, and offering a weeklong residency filled with masterclasses and side-by-side opportunities for Interlochen students. It was the DSO’s first visit to the acclaimed arts institution since 2006.

  • The DSO’s Sosnick Courtyard – located across the street from Orchestra Hall – was activated in summer 2019 with diverse programming like live jazz complemented by skateboarders, Tai chi set to music, film screenings, and more. Sosnick Courtyard is an outdoor extension of the mission of The Peter D. and Julie F. Cummings Cube (“The Cube”), a locus of innovative programming within the DSO’s Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center.

  • The DSO recording of Copland’s Billy the Kid and Grohg, released on Naxos’s American Classics series and conducted by Slatkin, was nominated for the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance. During 2018-2019, Naxos also released a DSO recording of John Williams’s Tuba Concerto featuring Principal Tuba Dennis Nulty on digital platforms, and the orchestra is featured performing James Newton Howard’s Violin Concerto with soloist James Ehnes on his 2018 recording.

  • The training ensembles of the Wu Family Academythe Civic Youth Ensembles and Detroit Community Ensembles – reached more than 800 participants. Over 13,000 students attended the DSO’s Educational Concert Series, with many tens of thousands more viewing them via Classroom Edition webcasts.

Financial Results

  • For the fiscal year ended August 31, 2019, the DSO reported an operating surplus for the seventh consecutive year. Total operating revenue was $29.17 million, while operating expenses totaled $29.15 million, generating an operating surplus of $20,000.

  • Total earned revenue increased to $8.98 million over the previous year’s $8.96 million, with a fifth consecutive year of increased ticket revenue. Ticket sales were up across all series and presentations, except for summer programming, which dipped due to weather.

  • Contributed revenue increased to $17.8 million over the previous year’s $17.53 million.

  • The DSO’s endowment continued to grow, ending the year at $55.3 million, after $3.6 million in contributions and $2.4 million in regular distributions.


  • New and re-elected Directors – The DSO Governing Members elected a new Director, Richard DeVore, and re-elected eight Directors to new three-year terms: Pamela Applebaum, Xavier Mosquet, Arthur C. Liebler, David T. Provost, Bernard I. Robertson, Nancy Schlichting, Kurtis T. Wilder, and M. Roy Wilson.

  • Re-elected Officers – The DSO Board of Directors elected its officers for 2020: Mark A. Davidoff (Chairman), Glenda D. Price (Vice Chair), Anne Parsons (President & CEO), Faye Alexander Nelson (Treasurer), Arthur T. O’Reilly (Secretary), Ralph J. Gerson (Officer at Large), David T. Provost (Officer at Large), Nancy Schlichting (Officer at Large), and Kurtis T. Wilder (Officer at Large).

  • New Trustees – The DSO Board of Directors re-elected Board of Trustees members and elected 11 new Trustees: Hadas Bernard, Janice Bernick, Peter Falzon, William Lentine, Anthony McCree, Anitha Mercy, Sandy Morrison, Mary Shafer, Richard Sonenklar, Yoni Torgow, and Donnell White.

  • New Governing Members Chair – The DSO Board of Directors elected a new Chair of the Governing Members, David Assemany, to a one-year term.

  • New Directors Emeriti – The DSO Board of Directors appointed three new Directors Emeriti: Chacona Baugh, Bonnie Larson, and David McCammon.

About the DSO

The most accessible orchestra on the planet, the acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra is known for trailblazing performances, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and a deep connection to its city. As a community-supported orchestra, generous giving by individuals and institutions at all levels drives the continued success and growth of the institution. Conductor Leonard Slatkin, who recently concluded an acclaimed decade-long tenure at the helm, now serves as the DSO’s Music Director Laureate, endowed by the Kresge Foundation. Celebrated conductor, arranger, and trumpeter Jeff Tyzik is the orchestra’s Principal Pops Conductor, while the outstanding trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard holds the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Jazz Creative Director Chair. Making its home at historic Orchestra Hall within the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, the DSO offers a performance schedule that features Classical, PNC Pops, Paradise Jazz, and Young People’s Family Concert series. One of America’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, Orchestra Hall will celebrate its centennial in 2019-2020. In addition, the DSO presents the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series in seven metro area venues, as well as a robust schedule of eclectic multi-genre performances in its mid-size venue The Cube, constructed and curated with support from Peter D. & Julie F. Cummings. A dedication to broadcast innovation began in 1922, when the DSO became the first orchestra in the world to present a radio broadcast and continues today with the free Live from Orchestra Hall webcast series, which also reaches tens of thousands of children with the Classroom Edition expansion. With growing attendance and unwavering philanthropic support from the people of Detroit, the DSO actively pursues a mission to embrace and inspire individuals, families, and communities through unsurpassed musical experiences.