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'So heartbreaking': Musicians speak out following K-W Symphony's bankruptcy announcement

It's the end of an era for Ontario's third largest orchestra.

After 78 years of music, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony filed for bankruptcy on Thursday

Cellist Miriam Stewart-Kroeker is still in shock over the news.

"It was just so heartbreaking for us and we're still processing that," she said Friday.

"It's just been a whirlwind, a lot of shock, I've gone through a lot of stages of grief and processing."

The bankruptcy announcement was made less than a week after the symphony abruptly cancelled its upcoming season and days after leadership announced they needed to secure $2 million by Friday to avoid insolvency.

“We are absolutely devastated about this outcome,” Rachel Smith-Spencer, chair of the symphony’s board of directors, said in a news release, announcing the organization had filed for bankruptcy.

“In the last three days, we have appealed to all of our major stakeholders and have exhausted all available avenues to secure the $2 million required immediately to continue operations.”

With just over 50 musicians and around 17 staff, the symphony was the largest employer of artists and cultural workers in Waterloo Region.

Senior Vice-President of BDO Canada Limited, Mike Braga said the symphony consulted with his company before making the decision.

"They consulted our services to see what their options were and made the very difficult decision that they could not continue in good faith and placed the company into bankruptcy," Braga said Friday.

Braga says even if the symphony had secured the $2 million, it would only have saved the 2023-2024 season, leaving the future uncertain.

"It questions what will happen for 2024 and 2025 and that was the difficult decision and the struggle that the board of directors was facing, they couldn't really come up with a plan beyond this year," he said.

CTV News reached out to the chair of the K-W Symphony for additional comment but did not receive a response.


Ahead of the announcement, symphony musicians, who are now out of jobs, started a grassroots fundraising campaign to save the symphony.

"This was our last ditch effort to raise those funds that were needed to save this season," Stewart-Kroeker said.

According to GoFundMe, the campaign was the biggest Canadian fundraiser on its platform in the last five months. Despite bringing in close to $300,000, it wasn’t enough.

Now, the plan for the funds raised is to go directly towards replacing musicians’ lost wages and benefits and towards presenting musical activities in the community.

"It has been such a comfort to know that we're not alone, that we matter and that we're important to lots of people," said violinist, Allene Chomyn.

"Kitchener, Waterloo and the region wants an orchestra here, they want live music, they want community initiatives like this. I’m hoping that that means we will be able to come back."


The symphony noted, besides the GoFundMe, another way the community can help support the future of classical music performance in the region, is by helping its foundation.

It said the K-W Symphony Foundation is an independent body responsible for managing the long-term investments donated over the years to support classical music locally.

“The foundation continues to operate, and will be able to support any future initiatives to bring classical music performance to Waterloo Region,” the symphony said in the news release.

Donations to the foundation can be made through Canada Helps. Top Stories

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