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OC music group tries to avoid cutbacks

The Philharmonic Society of Orange County seeks to raise $500,000 so it won't have to trim shows.

July 21, 2007|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

After suffering its biggest budget deficit in recent memory, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County is trying to raise $500,000 in the next three weeks to avoid canceling a sizable chunk of its 2007-08 season at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, executive director Dean Corey said Friday.

As many as nine of 21 scheduled performances may have to be dropped, most of them by world music and pops artists. Among the events slated for later this year are Fiesta Navidad featuring Mariachi Los Camperos, Assad Brothers' Brazilian Guitar Festival, Georgian State Dance Company and Cherish the Ladies. Corey said he is "very pleased" with advance sales for classical programming and doesn't plan to cut there.

The Philharmonic Society, which presents touring artists, reported a $756,000 deficit for 2006-07, its first season using the new Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall as its main venue. Attendance was 74% of capacity for 29 concerts in the new, 2,000-seat hall, and 81% for seven shows at the 756-seat Irvine Barclay Theatre.

Corey said attendance shortfalls accounted for about a third of the deficit as the new hall didn't prove to be as hot a destination for curious newcomers as he had hoped. The other two-thirds he attributed to disappointing fundraising.

With the performing arts center avidly wooing arts donors to pay off a $73.5-million construction debt, Corey said the Philharmonic Society was unable to land any of the $25,000 to $100,000 gifts it had counted on beyond its core donors' commitments to balance the $4.8-million budget. The deficit was nearly double a 2001-02 shortfall that the Philharmonic Society attributed to public wariness after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and it erases surpluses that had built up during the past three years.

"We can get through it," Corey said, "but I don't feel secure we can have another year like this."

mike.boehm@latimes.com

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