Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in race to survive

The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony has raised more than $500,000 in a campaign to ensure the survival of the orchestra in the southwestern Ontario city.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony has raised more than $500,000 in acampaign that is necessary to ensureits survival.

The symphony in the southwestern Ontario city issued a public appeal to governments, corporate donors and individual patrons last week, saying it will go under unless it raises $2.5 million by the end of this month.

"Since launching our SOS, the overall tone in the community is extremely supportive and people want to help however they can," said Bob Astley, chair of the symphony board.

The Kitchener-Waterloo symphony is facing a deficit of $1.2 million and needs money to operate in the coming year.

It has suffered declining ticket sales and rising expenses, as well as a cut in its funding from the Ontario Arts Council.

As of Wednesday, the symphony reported that it had raised $524,874, 21 per cent of the amount it needs to survive.

Pledgeshave ranged from individualamounts of $25 to as much as $47,000.

Astley met with municipal officials this week to appeal for more support from local governments.

Waterloo, Kitchener and the regional government have pledged to ask their councils for additional funding for the orchestra, but the nearby city of Cambridge refused to provide more funding.

Waterloo already gives the symphony a $161,000 operating grant and the region $116,000, while Waterloo gives $70,000, according to the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

The symphony sold 56,000 tickets during its 2002 season, but ticket sales had fallen to 42,000 by 2006. In the same period, expenses rose by 11 per cent.

The 66 musicians in the symphony are facing a cut in pay if the symphony manages to stay open.

"This is a difficult time for the symphony. We are counting on the community's continued support and participation to ensure that our symphony survives," Astley said.

The symphony offers pops, baroque and classical concerts in the communities of Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge.

The symphony was embroiled in scandal two years ago after dismissing its conductor.