Performances by the Wollongong Symphony Orchestra have been suspended after the company's main sponsor called curtains on funding worth more than $125,000 a year.Twelve concerts scheduled for 2011 have been called off and refunds are being organised for 280 subscribers.Chairman of the orchestra's board Christopher Cook said recent talks with principal sponsor WIN Corporation had prompted "a review of operations"."WIN said they weren't in a position to guarantee the whole year's worth of concerts according to the ways ... we've run things in the the past, " he said."The board felt that we could not run the whole year's worth of performances with the sponsorship we've got, so the responsible thing was to pay everybody back and review the way we're running the operation."WIN Corporation, owned by billionaire Bruce Gordon, has supported the company for six years.In 2008 it became principal supporter, providing "well over half" the $250,000 required from sponsorship, Mr Cook said.He indicated the orchestra - currently with 80-100 performers on its books - might be reborn as a smaller unit, or with fewer performances, or that new sponsorship dollars might be found.Orchestra members learned of the decision to suspend performances on Monday, 13 days before the first of the concerts - the Popular Classics series - was to begin at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre.The orchestra's principal flautist, Suzanne Cowan, of Figtree, said the news was upsetting."I was shocked. We'd already received our music for the [first] concert and were meant to start rehearsals on Sunday."Orchestra members were paid between $600 and $750 per series (three performances), however Mrs Cowan said the value to seasoned musicians was in playing alongside other skilled performers and staying connected to the artistic side of music.Orchestra manager Julie Pinazza said it gave junior musicians in the region something to aim for, and was among the cultural outlets helping Wollongong mature past its steel city roots."It's something that brings hope, it brings beauty, it brings something that complements people's lives," she said."I'm personally devastated. I really encourage the community to consider what it stands to lose ... and look at ways that we can sustain music of this standard."A spokeswoman for WIN Corp did not return the Mercury's calls yesterday.The Mercury was a "concerto-level" sponsor of the orchestra between October 2004 and early 2009, when the financial crisis prompted a review of the paper's sponsorship commitments.