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Message from Gustavo Gimeno, Music Director

Like most fans of the arts, I feel energized when I begin exploring unknown territories in the world of music and art, giving up my preconceptions of what a particular piece of art should look like or how certain kinds of music should sound. When I’m studying music—a complex score, a new composition, or a familiar classical work—whenever things start to feel mysterious, I know I am in the right place. As I enter my first year as Music Director of the TSO, I know it’s a time of historic circumstances with many uncertainties ahead, and it sometimes feels like we are all sitting on the precipice of something unknown. This feeling can be enthralling and even terrifying, but often the most extraordinary music can be created when our “real worlds” feel dangerous or unsure.

I have been working closely with TSO colleagues from my home in Amsterdam, and I am so proud of the way in which your Toronto Symphony Orchestra has adapted to the pandemic circumstances our institution is facing. I have watched every virtual concert, and marvelled at how these amazing musicians not only continue to perform, but have done so in incredibly creative ways, presenting their music in formats that are helping to revitalize the art form. It has truly filled me with inspiration and confidence. I may be starting my tenure at the TSO in unexpected circumstances, but the tenacity and commitment demonstrated by the musicians and the entire TSO community, including the devoted donors and volunteers this past year, make it clear that we are just getting started.

I look forward to building on the powerful artistic strengths of the TSO and to being with you in person soon!

Often the most extraordinary music can be created when our “real worlds” feel dangerous or unsure.

Gustavo Gimeno

Message from Matthew Loden, CEO

This was a year like no other. We shared extraordinary musical experiences in our concert hall—from a dazzling Daphnis et Chloé conducted by then-incoming Music Director Gustavo Gimeno, to a concert recording of a beautiful Thaïs conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, currently receiving wonderful reviews. We also enjoyed our annual Messiah concerts, festive holiday shows with Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke, pianist Seong-Jin Cho’s masterful performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, Concertmaster Jonathan Crow’s performance of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, and Elim Chan’s energetic conducting for our Valentine’s Rachmaninoff concert. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra brought the very best music to the stage under the generous leadership of Interim Artistic Director Sir Andrew Davis.

We welcomed 11,000 students to the hall and continued our commitment to serve audience members on the autism spectrum through Relaxed Performances, and we spooked children of all ages in our Halloween concert, conducted by the always animated Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser. We were energized and inspired by your enthusiastic response: standing ovations, letters, social media posts, and some truly generous philanthropic gifts.

Ticket sales from September to mid-March were on pace to reach $11 million, surpassing the prior year’s ticket revenue by 5.5%—which would have been a record for the TSO in its 98-season history.

And then, as the world faced a historic global pandemic, we were forced to leave our home at Roy Thomson Hall and cancel 38 performances. Despite the difficult circumstances, we were resolute that the music must continue. Within weeks of the shutdown, our talented and dedicated musicians were recording performances from their homes to share with our audiences. So far, we have shared over 500 performances, interviews, and behind-the-scenes looks at musical perspectives that have garnered over two million views on our social media channels. Our Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra connected virtually with seniors in long-term care to help reduce social isolation, and we provided music-education resources to enrich the at-home experience for families. The response from our audiences and community partners was unequivocal: music matters—especially during our most difficult days.

In addition to the resilience shown by our musicians, fueled by their creativity and flexibility, our Board of Directors, led by Chair Cathy Beck, was stalwart in supporting us through these turbulent waters. As a result of their stewardship, we closed this year with only a $676,000 deficit. As disappointing as it is to post a deficit after six consecutive years of surpluses, it is a testament to our institutional efforts that we were able to move forward from a year that saw a loss of almost $4 million of earned box-office revenue due to the pandemic. The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and a special grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, collectively totalling $1.3 million, along with patron generosity, cohesive leadership, and immediate spending restraints, allowed us to minimize the deficit.

The philanthropic contribution to the stability of our organization cannot be overstated. The transformational $10-million gift from the Estate of H. Thomas and Mary Beck at the end of 2019 has created opportunity where there had previously been fiscal concern. Without their generosity, the burden of debt caused by cancelled concerts would have posed an even greater threat. Tom and Mary’s understanding and passion for the value of orchestral music is helping to ensure that, even in these challenging days, we can continue to perform and serve our audiences. The TSO’s donor community—at all levels of investment—has had a deep impact on our ability to achieve our institutional priorities.

The next few years won’t be easy; the societal and economic impact of the pandemic is likely to be felt for some time. I remain confident that, together, we will not only sustain our service to our community through the healing and inspiring powers of music, but also emerge playing a stronger role than ever in enriching people’s lives. We have built an extraordinary TSO community.

As we enter a new era, under the musical leadership of Gustavo Gimeno, we can feel confident that the way in which we managed the past year will characterize our direction forward—an unwavering commitment to bringing exceptional orchestral and musical performances to serve our community with strong, responsible, visionary, artistic, and strategic leadership.

Thank you for your resolute support this year, and every year. We can’t wait to be in Roy Thomson Hall with you again when it's safe to return, enjoying the music we love together.

The response from our audiences and community partners was unequivocal: music matters—especially during our most difficult days.

Matthew Loden

Message from Catherine Beck, Chair of the Board

This year has been—and will remain—a vivid example of the incredible impact philanthropy makes. This is true for a cultural trust, like the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and for the many people who make up our institution: musicians, staff, donors, volunteers, and patrons.

Serving as Chair of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is a privilege and a great responsibility. The 2019/20 season was unprecedented in terms of the decisions our Board made, often in a context of uncertainty and of pressing financial demands. Like every year, I am grateful to the people I work with, and for—our musicians, our staff, my fellow members of the Board of Directors, the Toronto Symphony Foundation, the Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee, and the Young Leadership Council. Despite often managing personal adversities, they have committed funds, time, and necessary strategic insight to our collective progress. Our perspicacious and determined CEO, Matthew Loden, and his creative staff have ensured we continue to be proud of our Toronto Symphony Orchestra, especially during these challenging times. Our performances may have been cut short, but there was plenty to celebrate last year as our magnificent Orchestra rose to many heights.

Two highlights underscore the faith our donors and patrons have put in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra: When we needed to cancel three and a half months of concerts, with significant financial implications, our patrons, subscribers, donors, and funders stood by us by donating the tickets back, or exchanging them for future performances, including for our highly anticipated 100th season in 2021/22. It was a critical show of support. And while we found ourselves, despite recalibrations, with a deficit at the end of the season, we will nonetheless be able to add $2 million to our Foundation from an anonymous donor and qualify for matching funds from the Canada Cultural Investment Fund (CCIF), which will further add to our endowment.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who generously contributed to our financial stability and toward an artistically poignant season that, in its sudden interruption, made us keenly aware of the importance of music, of the concert hall, and of the public performance of great art.

I wish to welcome Gustavo Gimeno as our new Music Director, and I can't wait to see all our TSO friends at concerts and events whenever and wherever possible. See you soon.

There was plenty to celebrate last year as our magnificent Orchestra rose to many heights.

Catherine Beck
TSO CEO Matthew Loden & Board Chair Cathy Beck applaud the Orchestra after the Free Concert on February 26, 2020.

Reliving Our Memories from the 2019/20 Season


In Memoriam

The TSO lost two members of our family who left an indelible mark on our Orchestra.

In July 2019, Walter Homburger, former Managing Director of the TSO for 25 years, died at the age of 95. He was a brilliant impresario, a strategic leader, and a kind inspiration to all who knew him. Read more about Walter here.

In June 2020, long-time TSO collaborator and conductor Victor Feldbrill died at the age of 96. His association with Orchestra spanned more than 70 years. In addition to conducting, he was a fierce champion of music education. Read more about Victor here.