Pittsburgh Symphony, Inc.:
Supporting All Facets of the Symphony
Founded in 1895, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) today performs more than 100 concerts per year and serves an audience of more than 300,000. The PSO owns and operates Heinz Hall, which has served as its home in the cultural district since 1971. In recent years, under the leadership of President and CEO Melia Tourangeau and Musical Director Manfred Honeck, the PSO has signed a new contract with its musicians, expanded its programming to reach new audiences, and shifted from annual operating deficits to accrual surpluses in two consecutive years. The PSO also continues to build upon its reputation as one of the best orchestras in the world, performing in Austria, Belgium, France, and Germany, as well as at Lincoln Center in New York City, and at a free concert broadcast across the country on PBS, following the tragic shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
With a Foundation grant of $5.35 million, the PSO would build upon its momentum in recent years by funding its pension obligations, including a gap of $26 million between its liabilities of $61 million and its assets of $35 million. Since the PSO’s legacy pension plans are not fully funded and annuitized (all new employees have defined contribution plans), the cost of servicing those liabilities increases when interest rates decline. As risk-free rates are projected to decline even further in the years to come, the PSO must seek outside funding to make up for this loss in interest income without adding new risk to its investment portfolio. The Foundation’s support will allow PSO to address its immediate pension liability and create a task force of finance experts to explore the use of annuities, plan terminations, lump-sum payments, and other financial tools to shield against rate volatility.
The Foundation grant also will support the first major capital improvements to Heinz Hall since 1995, including replacing all theater seating; installing wheelchair accessible entry points; repainting and carpeting; renovating the backstage room and Maestro’s Suite, which have not been renovated since 1971; and remodeling rooms that contribute to earned income.
Lastly, Foundation support of PSO operations includes more than 100 concerts, including 47 BNY Mellon Grand Classics at Heinz Hall; 26 PNC Pops concerts; 15 Broadway performances; and 15 special concerts. The PSO will also conduct educational and community programming, including its Fiddlesticks family concerts, school time concerts, and sensory concerts. The PSO would also hire a new Principal Pops Conductor, a position that has been vacant for seven years, ever since the death of longtime conductor, Marvin Hamlisch.