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Orchestra's fund raising noteworthy

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra has weathered difficult economic times with a concerted effort.

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra has weathered difficult economic times with a concerted effort.

June 22, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE
(Page 2 of 2)

"If you're missing any of those pieces, it's going to be rough," he said. "Most of our member orchestras do indeed have all five of those pieces in place."

Less fortunate

Of approximately 350 professional orchestras in the United States, eight have closed in the last two years, McAuliffe said. They include orchestras in San Jose, Calif.; Savannah, Ga.; Louisville, Ky.; and the Florida Philharmonic, he said. On June 12, the San Antonio, Texas, orchestra announced it was filing for bankruptcy, he said.

There is hope, McAuliffe said.

Eight orchestras went out of business about 10 years ago during the previous recession, he said.

"In every one of those eight cities is now an orchestra in place, often with the same musicians," McAuliffe said. "At least, historically, communities and their musicians just don't let their orchestras die."

The Millbrook Chamber Orchestra that performed in Shepherdstown, W.Va., disbanded in June 2001.

Guy Frank, one of the founding members of Millbrook, said he wasn't aware of any effort to revive the orchestra. Frank estimated it would take $200,000 in seed money to make that possible.


Frank and James E. Pantle said the orchestra couldn't raise the money needed to keep it going. It was a struggle each year to stay afloat, Pantle said.

Expenses for the orchestra rose over the years as it went from having amateur musicians to professionals, Pantle said.

When the orchestra started in 1979 the budget was less than $20,000, said Pantle, a founding member who served as executive director at times and did the orchestra's budget projections. Near the end, the budget was around $150,000.

Pantle and Frank said orchestra officials couldn't drum up enough financial support from the community, which lacked big corporations with local headquarters that could make decisions to donate money locally.

The creative fund-raisers the group came up with were successful at first, but later became less effective, said Pantle and George Whalen, who served as vice president during the orchestra's last year. Their fund-raisers included a silent auction with items donated by local businesses and a June Gala.

Another problem the orchestra had was the same small group of people tended to do much of the work, orchestra officials said.

Some board members got tired of asking for money or just didn't want that responsibility, Pantle said.

The MSO has 45 board members who all help raise funds, Hamilton said.

MSO board members meet face-to-face with many individual donors to update them on the symphony and answer questions, said Jim Pierne, board president for the new season.

"It's not unusual for a board member to be involved in fund raising because they're people we know," Pierne said.

"We have a lot of folks who give significantly as an individual. A lot of people give as both an individual and a corporation," Pierne said.

Hamilton said the community's support is critical in having an orchestra, especially one that provides quality music.

"It's just an ongoing dream. I think the community has a real ownership," Hobbs said.

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