The future appears uncertain for the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony.
In an email to patrons sent just after 8:30 p.m. Sunday, the symphony said all upcoming performances have been cancelled.
“We have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2023/24 season with great sadness,” the symphony said. “Unfortunately, given the financial challenges facing the symphony, it is simply not feasible to continue with our previously planned performances.”
All ticket purchases are non-refundable, it said. Previously purchased tickets will be eligible to receive a tax receipt.
On Saturday, the director of operations emailed members of the Youth Orchestra Program saying that it would not be “commencing our season this week.”
The email from Laurie Castello was shared with CTV News Kitchener.
“Scheduled concerts, Youth Orchestra activities and other programs for the ’23-’24 season will not be proceeding,” Castello wrote. “Please do not attend any rehearsals scheduled for Sunday through Wednesday this week.”
Members of the Youth Orchestra had very little notice of the cancellation.
“This is pretty disappointing to me because this is a big part of my life,” said Olivier Joyce, a youth orchestra member. “I go there every Sunday for two hours and just practice.
Two people told CTV News they received an email reminder for Sunday’s practice on Friday night, and just 24 hours later, got the cancellation email from Castello.
“They just did an audition a week and a half ago and they worked all summer for three months to get ready for that audition,” said parent Genevieve Schirm-Joyce.”
In response to a member’s question via email, Castello responded: “Unfortunately I don’t have any additional information that I can share with you right now. We’re working as quickly as we can through a series of steps with the Board, Foundation and others. We’ll provide more information as quickly as we possibly can, but please know that it will take a little bit of time before that happens.”
The symphony’s website currently shows no upcoming performances or events on its calendar.
Its last social media posts, dated from earlier this month, promoted the start of its 2023-2024 season and planned concerts on Sept. 20, Sept. 22, Sept. 23, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. The links to its concert page also turn up no upcoming events.
RESPONSE FROM KWS
CTV News reached out to the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony for a statement Sunday.
An email from Devon Klaas, the director of audience engagement, said: “KWS will not be commencing the season this week. Scheduled concerts and all other activities (such as Youth Orchestra and Bridge to Music)… for the 2023/2024 season will not be proceeding. Based on the financial situation of the symphony, it simply wasn’t possible for the organization to continue with our planned events.”
No further details have been shared about the remainder of the season.
HISTORY OF THE K-W SYMPHONY
The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony was founded in 1945 to accompany the Grand Philharmonic Choir, while the Youth Orchestra was formed in 1966.
Over its 78 year history, the symphony has evolved into a professional orchestra that has toured across Canada, Europe, South America and Asia.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony said on its website that it performs more than 222 concerts a year to an audience of over 90,000 people.
With over 50 musicians, it is the largest employer of artists and cultural workers in the region.
PAST FINANCIAL TROUBLES
According to the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s website, they “faced a challenging period” after the departure of Martin Fischer-Dieskau in 2003 due to a conflict within its organization.
In 2006, they launched a “Save our Symphony” campaign in an attempt to avoid declaring bankruptcy.
The organization managed to raise $2.3 million, which allowed it to continue operating.
In January 2023, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony made an appeal to council for the Region of Waterloo saying the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions affected their potential profits.
“We are having to weather what is a temporary ‘perfect storm’ in terms of cash flow and budget,” musician Ian Whitman said at the meeting.
The organization added that the financial challenges continued into their 2022-2023 season, despite a rebound in ticket sales and increased funding from donors.
The symphony asked council for a special one-time grant of $100,000.