Sounding better: Pittsburgh Symphony is tackling its budget deficit

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The Pittsburgh Symphony is hitting the right notes so far in its effort to erase a budget deficit.

The PSO announced that it ended the 2012-13 fiscal year $1.475 million in the hole, which isn't enviable but is a vast improvement over one year ago, when the deficit was nearly twice as much, $2.9 million. It comes after the symphony reached an early contract in June with its musicians, an agreement made possible in large measure by a $1.2 million donation that will be factored into the 2013-14 budget. Unfortunately, the symphony was hurt in the most recent budget by an unsuccessful Broadway series, which failed to generate fan interest and, thus, sufficient revenue.

The orchestra kicked off an 11-concert European tour last week that will take musicians to Austria, France, Germany, Romania and Switzerland. The PSO reliably is invited to perform at influential music venues, testament to its musicians and leadership, including music director Manfred Honeck.

Reputation and quality performance doesn't pay all of the bills, however.

The symphony also is fortunate to have strong support from local philanthropies, and it will be eligible for generous grants going forward as long as it can get out of the red and stay there -- a $5 million grant from the Heinz Endowments if it eliminates the deficit by 2015 and $12 million from the Simmons Family Foundation if the budget remains balanced for three consecutive years.

Continued careful management is essential going forward so the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra can remain strong -- to the delight of audiences here and the world over.

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