Mercury Chamber Orchestra
“They put us on a firm footing to really move forward….”
Houston’s Mercury Chamber Orchestra started as a grassroots effort by four friends in 2000 who wanted to enrich and entertain audiences with a repertoire of music performed on period instruments. Today, it has blossomed into a lively chamber orchestra beloved by the community with music that has expanded to include works outside of the Baroque period. Serving the community by celebrating the power of music – Baroque and beyond – Mercury offers over 50 vibrant performances each year and educates youth and adult students, in classrooms, fellowships and pre-concert lectures, to awaken a lifelong interest in music.
Executive Director Brian Ritter heard about Your Part-Time Controller shortly after YPTC came to Houston. “There was a lot of conversation among smaller organizations and large foundation funders about the back-office issues that we all struggle with a bit,” he said. Soon thereafter, the orchestra underwent a transition when the staff bookkeeper left. “I was able to look with fresh eyes at where we were going,” Ritter recalls. “A peer organization had retained YPTC several months earlier. I called them up and they had nothing but rave reviews about what YPTC was doing and what they brought to the table.”
YPTC began working with the orchestra in December 2018. “They immediately got us to where we needed to be in terms of the presentation of our financials. They got us through our transition and put us on a firm footing to really move forward,” he says.
That forward motion includes an ambitious four-year, $7 million fundraising campaign. “It’s essential for me to have somebody in the background who knows that all that work is being accounted for in the best way possible. The expertise that they’re bringing in, not only for the day-to-day financial work but also in these early stages of our future plans for a safety net, reserves and eventually an endowment, assures me that everything is accounted for and that we have policies and procedures in place.”
The “bottom line,” Ritter explains, is YPTC’s expertise and professionalism. “I have full confidence in all of our discussions that they have knowledge and expertise. It’s a night-and-day difference between where we were and where we are.”
Ritter also lauds two other features of YPTC’s work: consistency and a national network of experts. In previous experiences with CPAs he was bounced around among different accountants; YPTC offers a consistent presence from an Associate who becomes, as he says, “a part of our team.” In addition, each YPTC Associate can draw upon the advice and guidance of colleagues across the country.
“As a performing arts organization, we have thousands of transactions related to ticket sales. These all have to reconciled and accounted for,” he adds. “We have systems for doing that but it’s very time-consuming. Our Associate can tap into her network to find other performing arts organizations using the same system to learn the best ways to do reconciliations. The value in that is enormous.
“I’ve worked with other organizations that struggled in this area. YPTC has a great network to help us figure out the nuances of the nonprofit world. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel and that’s a real added bonus.”