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The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony said Thursday that it had filed for bankruptcy just days after cancelling its 2023-24 season, leaving dozens of musicians and staff facing an uncertain future.

The 78-year-old Southern Ontario symphony said earlier this week that it needed to raise $2-million immediately in order to keep operating, acknowledging that insolvency was a possible outcome. The organization confirmed it had filed for bankruptcy in a press release late Thursday afternoon.

“We are absolutely devastated about this outcome,” board chair Rachel Smith-Spencer said in the release. “In the last three days, we have appealed to all of our major stakeholders and have exhausted all available avenues to secure the $2M required immediately to continue operations.”

The revelation of the symphony’s financial turmoil sparked an outpouring of concern across Waterloo Region this week. It also made its way to the House of Commons Wednesday, where Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said her office had been in touch with the symphony and that Ottawa would work with the organization to see how federal programs could support it.

It marks a devastating blow to one of Ontario’s most popular orchestras. Classical musicians often depend on full-time positions in such organizations to sustain their careers. Kendra Grittani, a member of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s cello section, said in an interview that some members had just moved to the region and would not even be able to access employment insurance because they had not started work yet.

Rehearsals were set to begin Sept. 19, but were axed after the symphony said it would cancel its season. “We had so little warning,” Grittani said.

Members of the symphony launched a GoFundMe earlier this week to try to raise the funding, and said the money would be held in the Players’ Association’s bank account rather than by symphony management. This, Grittani said, would help cover musicians’ lost wages without risking the money being lost in an insolvency process. It had raised more than $237,000 by early Thursday evening.

Miriam Stewart-Kroeker, a cellist with the symphony who was part of the group organizing the GoFundMe, said that the musicians were “completely heartbroken” by the bankruptcy announcement.

“However, we are so grateful for the astounding amount of support we’ve received – financial and otherwise – from all around the country in the past few days. Our work isn’t done – we will continue to make music in the community and explore all options available to us to keep our orchestra alive.”

The symphony also said Thursday that the independent K-W Symphony Foundation, which managed donations on its behalf, will continue to operate and “will be able to support any future initiatives to bring classical music performance to Waterloo Region.” It said it would solicit donations through Canada Helps.

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