Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Faces Uncertain Future Amid Financial Crisis


Clouds of uncertainty darken the future of the renowned Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. The unsettling news surfaced on a Saturday when the director of operations sent out emails to the Youth Orchestra Program members. The gist was that the upcoming season was in jeopardy with immediate effect.

Upon reading the email sent by Laurie Castello, the members were met with the stark reality. Plans for the “2023-2044 season will not be proceeding” and concerts, activities and rehearsals scheduled for the week were summarily canceled. This sudden announcement caught members of the Youth Orchestra off guard.

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People reported receiving an email reminder about Sunday’s practice on Friday night. However, the abrupt cancellation was announced in an email from Castello a mere 24 hours later. When approached for additional information, Castello cited that she was not privy to further details at this time. She reassured that the board, foundation, and other members were working diligently to resolve issues, and more information would be divulged soon.

The symphony’s website further affirmed the disconcerting situation; it showed no scheduled concerts or events. The symphony’s last social media post promised the commencement of their 2023-24 season and announced a series of concerts on specific dates in September and October. Unfortunately, those same links now showed no upcoming events.

In a sporadic response to the unfolding scenario, Devon Klaas, the standing director of audience engagement, stated, “KWS will not be commencing the season this week.” He underscored the financial instability crippling the organization and curtailing its ability to continue with planned events. Details about the remaining season remained conspicuously veiled.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony has a storied history dating back to 1945 when it was founded to accompany the Grand Philharmonic Choir. Subsequent growth saw the formation of the Youth Orchestra in 1966. Over a span of 78 years, the symphony became a professional orchestra, gaining renown across Canada, Europe, South America, and Asia. Its website boasts of more than 222 concerts performed annually.

The Symphony alludes to a “challenging period” on its website dating back to 2003, following the departure of Martin Fischer-Dieskau due to internal conflict. The financial struggles were grave enough to warrant a “Save our Symphony” campaign in 2006 to stave off bankruptcy. Their actions managed to generate $2.3 million, enough to keep the show running.

The arrival of 2023, however, exacerbated the financial crunch. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and consequent restrictions substantially impacted their potential profits. Despite a rebound in ticket sales and freehanded funding from donors in the 2022-23 season, their financial woes lingered. A desperate plea for a one-time grant of $100,000 was made to the Regional Council of Waterloo in January 2023 to sustain the wave of financial adversities.