Charleston Symphony Orchestra economic impact exceeds $6.6 Million

November 3, 2016

As the Charleston Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 80th Anniversary season, the organization’s longstanding contribution to the Charleston community has not gone unnoticed. The Citadel School of Business Administration recently produced an Economic Impact Study that presents an overall organizational assessment, noting that the impact on the Charleston community from CSO and attendee spending amounted to $6,672,220.

The subjective assessment of the organization’s 2015 fiscal year reviewed CSO’s contribution to the quality of life, best practices for symphonies and the symphony’s economic impact on the Charleston area community.

According to the study, “Many say the best is yet to come from CSO. Excited about the future, they have learned from the past and are ready to move forward.

“Financially, the CSO has completed its fifth consecutive season with an operating surplus. Eighty percent of FY15 expenses were used for its mission; music. Of those expenses, 10 percent was for education, and 70 percent was spent for artistic purposes.”

The study found that CSO’s expenditures carry a measurable and positive impact on the local economy by contributing both economically and to the overall enhancement of the quality of life.

Below are three areas that most significantly contribute to the CSO’s overall impact in the community:


The CSO provided education programs for 60 participating schools, which resulted in more than 15,000 unique interactions for the 2014-2015 season. During the 2015-2016 season, the CSO reached more than 21,000 students in the Tri-county area. As the organization travels to private and public schools, its programs seek to engage students and offer hands-on opportunities with instruments and provide personal interactions with musicians. The CSO’s robust education program is included in the total impact and as an educator, the symphony spent $293,532 in FY15 resulting in an economic impact of $480,898.


The symphony recruits world class musicians and guest artists, which contributes to the cultural enrichment of the lives of guests and visitors. In addition to CSO performances, musicians perform at weddings, celebrations and other special events in the Charleston area, enhancing both the economy and quality of life. For every CSO job, a total number of 3.69 jobs are created in the Charleston area community. The study concluded the CSO creates a total number of 345 jobs.

Local Business

The students conducting the study surveyed 25 local business owners in the Charleston area for input on their sentiment toward sponsoring the CSO. The companies surveyed consisted of real estate firms (both residential and commercial), software companies, insurance companies, interior design companies, wealth management companies, construction companies, healthcare providers and Yelp. The findings indicate that 84 percent of owners would sponsor a CSO event under “the right circumstances” and that 100 percent of owners are in agreement that the CSO’s mission and values align with their own.

To view the Economic Impact Study, please click here.

Celebrating 80 Years

Charleston’s rich orchestral heritage began in 1819 with its first, 30-person orchestra. Then, the musicians performed intimate concerts for family and friends. In 1936, music lovers Miss Maude Winthrop Gibbon and Mrs. Martha Laurens Patterson founded the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. In the late 1980s, the CSO emerged as a professional organization with a core of full-time, conservatory-trained first chair players. In 1984, David Stahl became music director and conductor. For 27 years, he led the orchestra and built the CSO into one of the leading arts organizations in the Southeast. Through the years, CSO performed on the stages of various theaters and halls, before marking its first season in its new home at the Gaillard Center in 2015. Now under the leadership of Executive Director Michael Smith and Music Director Ken Lam, CSO offers major concert series, including Masterworks, Pops and Chamber Music and provides an array of educational programs that connect the organization with students, helping them succeed, and inspiring a lifelong love of music.


About Charleston Symphony Orchestra

Founded in 1936, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is a cornerstone of the arts and cultural scene of Charleston, South Carolina, providing high-quality performances of symphonic and chamber music, as well as inspiring education and outreach programs. The Orchestra employs 24 full-time professional musicians. The CSO performs throughout the tri-county region, and at its newly renovated home, the Gaillard Center. The CSO’s major concert series are the Masterworks, Pops and Chamber Music. Programming is extensive and varied, spanning multiple periods and genres. In addition, CSO participates in community concerts, special events, and school programs throughout the state. Visit for more information.