K-W Symphony abruptly halts 2023-24 season, pointing to 'financial situation'

The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra says it has cancelled its 2023-24 season, days before they were set to being. The orchestra cites their 'financial situation' for cancelling the season.

Scheduled concerts and all other activities, including Youth Orchestra and Bridge to Music have been cancelled

Orchestra members perform.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra has cancelled its 2023-24 season including all events and activities. The news affects the KW Youth Orchestra and Bridge to Music programs. (Submitted by Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony)

With just days before they were set to take the stage, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra has cancelled its upcoming season.

Devon Klaas, director of audience engagement told CBC News in an email, that all scheduled concerts and other activities, including the Youth Orchestra and Bridge to Music, will not proceed for the 2023-24 season.

"Based on the financial situation of the symphony, it simply wasn't possible for the organization to continue with our planned events," Klaas said.

"We don't have more information to share at this time, but we expect to be able to provide more information soon."

The symphony's website shows no concerts are available.

In January, the symphony had asked regional council for a one time fund of $100,000, telling councillors the orchestra was planning for 50 per cent growth in the next two years, but were struggling from the impact of the pandemic.

The region did not grant that funding, according to the minutes from a Feb. 22 regional council meeting. In April, the KW Symphony did receive a $385,725 grant from the region's Key Cultural Institutions grant program.

Shocked and saddened 

Ticket holders received an email to inform them about the season's cancellation over the weekend, saying that previously purchased tickets "will be eligible to receive a tax receipt."

"Your tax receipt will be mailed to the address you have on file with us in the next few days," the symphony said in an email to ticket holders that CBC News has seen.

Melissa Bowman from Kitchener said she received the email late Sunday evening and was shocked and saddened to learn about the cancellation of the upcoming season.

"Like many arts organizations locally, I was aware that they're often operating on shoe string budgets and need the support of local council and community organizations," she told CBC News.

"I knew they had made those appeals to the community, but I don't think I had any sense that it was so serious. It was kind of shocking and a very sad news announcement for our community."

Bowman said she and her family were regular symphony goers and had purchased a ticket package for this upcoming season.

"We always take my in-laws to the yuletide spectacular, that was always something that we looked forward to and our Christmas present to our family," she said.

"We'll have to be looking at an alternative this year because it doesn't sound like that will be happening."

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic was "saddened" by the news too. 

"The KW Symphony has been a key cultural institution and an integral part of our live music scene locally since 1945, delighting audiences throughout our region, across Canada and around the world," he said in an email statement. 

Union 'blindsided' 

On its website, KW Symphony says it's the third largest orchestra in Ontario and one of the "largest employer of artists and cultural workers," with 54 musicians that make up the orchestra.

Paul Mitchell, local president of the Ontario Musicians' Association, which is part of the American Federation of Musicians, told CBC News on Monday they were "blindsided" by the announcement from the orchestra.

"We recently found this out about the same time as everyone else," Mitchell said.

"Representing the musicians of the KWS is something that is paramount to us. As we find out more information we'll be able to put together a strategy in hopes of supporting our musicians and hopefully restoring the KWS."

"We intend to have conversations ASAP with KWS," Mitchell added.