Carnegie Hall Slashes Schedule and Budget

By: Ronald Blum
By: Ronald Blum

NEW YORK (AP) -- Carnegie Hall cut its 2009-10 schedule by 10 percent because of the recession, instituting a hiring freeze and slashing $4 million from the budget for its current season to keep it balanced.

Carnegie executive and artistic director Clive Gillinson said Wednesday that next season's budget will be even lower than the revised $76 million for this season. Carnegie announced a schedule of 180 concerts, down from about 200 in recent seasons.

"Like everyone, we're now having to manage our way through an environment which has not really been experienced by anybody in living memory, and where so many of the assumptions we would have taken from granted are no longer valid," Gillinson said.

Susan Brady, the hall's director of development, said individual giving for this season was down 17 to 18 percent to $11 million. Corporate donations remained steady, and overall giving was about $30 million last season.

Gillinson said the staff had remained at about 290. It is too early to determine whether Bank of America would renew as the season sponsor, a role it has filled in recent seasons. He said two symphony orchestras and one chamber orchestra who had intended to play at Carnegie next season had canceled plans after losing corporate sponsors, and that some orchestras had changed programming to cut costs.

In addition, Carnegie will break with recent practice and allow renewing subscribers to pay 50 percent when making their commitment and 50 percent by Feb. 27. In the past, they had to pay 100 percent at the start.

Gillinson said 55 percent of Carnegie's tickets were sold as parts of subscriptions, making it harder to judge the impact of the financial turmoil during the final months of the year.

The season opens with music director James Levine conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 1. The highlight is a festival called "Ancient Paths, Modern Voices: Celebrating Chinese Culture," which includes 30 events throughout New York from Oct. 21 to Nov. 10.

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