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Orchestrating growth

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Symphony is undertaking a long-term effort to transform itself into “America’s next great orchestra.”

Based on goals and strategies it expects to develop by next fall, the symphony over five to 10 years aims to build its endowment and annual fund, add musicians and instruments, improve the quality of its concerts, expand and broaden its audience, lengthen its season, and increase touring, broadcasting and recording, says CEO David Chambless Worters.

Accomplishing those goals could require raising up to $50 million, although the symphony will not measure success in dollars alone, he says.

And while it could be two to three years before the public phase a formal campaign likely would begin, he says, symphonies today, like universities, are “always in campaign mode.”

In the past three months, for example, the symphony secured commitments for four gifts totaling nearly $2 million to help finance its long-term plans, he says.

A key long-term goal is to increase the size of the orchestra to 82 chairs from 62, putting it on a par with other “national class major orchestras” that include Dallas, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Utah, Worters says.

Each of the top seven orchestras in the United States, by comparison, has more than 100 chairs.

With a $1.25 million price-tag for endowing a chair, the expansion could require adding $25 million to the endowment, which now totals $7.4 million, he says, adding that new chairs also could be funded with annual “programmatic” gifts totaling $55,000 to $60,000 per chair.

Over 10 years, the symphony’s annual budget could grow to $14 million to $16 million from $9.5 million, while its annual fundraising could grow to $5 million from $2.5 million, Worters says.

Readiness for the fundraising effort, which has been advised by Hartsook Companies in Wichita, Kan., will require adding two people to the seven-person fundraising staff, which has grown from 3.5 since he became CEO five years ago.

Worters also has his eye on some new instruments, including “the world’s best harpsichord” and a full-scale concert organ, and wants to lengthen the symphony’s season, now 41 weeks.

“As we add weeks to the season,” he says “we’ll be able to do more concerts in the Triangle, around the state and beyond.”

In September, for example, the symphony launched a three-concert subscription season in Craven County that will build on its annual concert at Tryon Palace in New Bern.

Local volunteers in Craven County helped sell more than 500 season tickets and raise more than $80,000 for the new season, and expansion to other regions will depend on similar volunteer efforts, Worters says.

The symphony also has revived its young professionals group, renamed Bravo! and chaired by Kemp Reece of Davenport & Co., which aims to “cultivate the next generation of North Carolina Symphony audiences,” Worters says.

Under Grant Llewellen, its new music director, who is spending a lot of time getting to know supporters and community leaders, Worters says, the symphony aims to reach “the broadest possible audience and, most importantly, the largest possible audience.”

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