How the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Hit Its Stride

JoAnn Falletta
New York State of Opportunity

Invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall? Check.

Editorial in regional newspaper celebrating a “cultural gem?” Check.

Balanced budget? Drama-free contract negotiations? GRAMMY Award? Check, check, and two checks on that last one.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has hit an undeniable stride. This year, the orchestra signed a six year contract, and music director JoAnn Falletta is contracted until 2021. In 11 of the past 12 years, the orchestra has balanced its budget. For 30 years, the orchestra has been a NYSCA grantee, receiving funds through our Music and Regional Economic Development Council Programs.

Yet, like many – if not all – arts organizations, the orchestra has had its share of high and low notes.

The orchestra faced fiscal challenges throughout the 90s and at one point was even “for sale” according to a classified ad. While the orchestra’s turnaround has been multifaceted, there’s one clear indicator of how it founds its current path: In 1998, JoAnn Falletta joined the orchestra as music director. She is now its longest-serving maestro.

“Maestro Falletta’s role in shaping the orchestra’s current position cannot be overstated,” says Executive Director and NYSCA panelist Dan Hart. “Since her arrival, she has continued to deliver exceptional programming and drive the orchestra to new artistic heights. During her tenure, the organization has achieved unprecedented community visibility and support, regained public confidence and expanded audiences.”

In 2004, the BPO created a plan to grow its endowment, and in 2011, the BPO’s management and Board of Trustees developed a long-range financial plan that focused on controlling costs and creating new programs and repositioning programs to increase earned revenue.

Today, the orchestra performs programs ranging from masterworks to family concerts, new commissions and collaborations with local theater, dance, rock and visual artists. Through a partnership Falletta developed with the Naxos label, the BPO regularly records, and in 2009, earned two GRAMMYs for a recording of John Corigliano’s Mr. Tambourine Man.
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