Remembering Bruce Kallos, and His Vision of Success

Directing the Delaware Symphony Orchestra to financial stability was his mission.

We were saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Bruce Kallos on July 13. Delaware Today had interviewed Bruce June 24 for an upcoming article about people in the arts. Chairman of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, he was shepherding the organization out of a period of financial trouble, into a new future. This was the piece we had planned to run.

Bruce Kallos calls it a perfect storm: An economic downturn that hampered financial gifts and ticket sales, coupled with overspending and a serious personnel issue, nudged the Delaware Symphony Orchestra to the very edge. One of the finest symphonies in the region, DSO shocked the community by suspending its 2012 season. Longtime donor Tatiana Copeland rejoined the board to lead DSO’s reorganization, then resigned in April. Kallos, a rank-and-file board member at the time—one of three who remain since the 2012 season—took over as chairman in June. “You don’t campaign for these things,” he laughs. “Then once you’ve got it, you think, Oh my God, what have I gotten into?” Kallos points out that he is the only board member without a significant background in music. What he does have is a long history in corporate administration and financial planning. The experience has helped him identify practices that have saved other beleaguered orchestras, and they have given him the fiduciary savvy to expand the season, grow the budget and push DSO toward becoming a truly statewide presence. All of that happens in part by performing with other organizations, such as Opera Delaware and First State Ballet Theatre, in part by exploring something as convenient as selling tickets online. The result: DSO will end its fiscal year with a surplus of nearly $100,000. “As a board member and then as board chair, Bruce has done the real work to face the real challenges of the DSO. He is committed, tenacious, firm, genuine,” says general manager Diana Milburn. “And he has the best laugh in the world.”

“I have to give a lot of credit to Bruce,” says board treasurer David Plaza. “He really focused on sustainability.” On July 23, the board elected Charlie Babcock as its new chairman. Plaza calls Babcock a natural choice as successor for his focus on sound governance. The arts lovers at Delaware Today wish the board all the best and offer our condolences to the Kallos family.

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