MSO needs funds for annual Salute to Independence concert

March 21, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Maryland Symphony Orchestra Music Director Elizabeth Schulze conducts in this file photo taken during last summer's 25th annual Salute to Independence at Antietam National Battlefield.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — The Maryland Symphony Orchestra needs approximately $50,000 by May 1 for the annual Salute to Independence concert at Antietam National Battlefield to be held in July, the symphony’s interim executive director, April Dowler, said Monday.

“Just recently we have learned that, based on the financial status of the battlefield’s budget, the National Park Service’s financial commitment to this concert is in jeopardy,” MSO Director of Marketing & Public Relations Gregory R. Evans wrote in an e-mail announcing a Wednesday press conference on the matter.

Dowler said the event also has lost sponsorship, both in the number of sponsors and the amount of money provided.

“Due to these unforeseen circumstances, our ability to produce this year’s event is uncertain,” Evans wrote.

Salute to Independence is a free concert the MSO performs on a Saturday near the Fourth of July at the battlefield south of Hagerstown. It features fireworks and the firing of cannons during the “1812 Overture.”

The event typically draws around 35,000 people, making it one of the largest annual events in Washington County.

The 26th annual Salute to Independence is scheduled for July 2.

Acting Battlefield Superintendent Ed Wenschhof was unavailable for comment Monday.

May 1 is a drop-dead date for raising the money because musicians need to know whether to save the date and the MSO has contracts with vendors, Dowler said.

“We’re concerned and we’re concerned to the point that we feel we need to take immediate action,” Dowler said.

“We love this event and the community loves this event, so we’re pretty determined to do it. But if we don’t have the money, we can’t do it,” she said.

Dowler would not say how much the annual event costs, saying she would release that information at the press conference at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the symphony’s office in downtown Hagerstown.

“We are looking for opportunities to increase our sponsorship and we will be making a public appeal,” Dowler said.

MSO officials are pursuing grant and sponsorship possibilities, and looking to individuals, businesses, foundations and other groups for financial assistance, Dowler said.

“Because it’s a great community event and we would like community support for it,” she said.

Traditionally, the concert has been funded through corporate sponsors, some government assistance and a few individuals, but there hasn’t been a lot of grass-roots support, she said.

A bucket is passed around during the concert that, in the past, has amounted to $8,000, money that helps fund the concert, Dowler said. Dowler did not know how much last year’s bucket contained, since the park service is in charge of the bucket collection.

“(We’re) looking to the public, if they really enjoy this concert, to help put it on,” Dowler said.

This is not the first time the concert has been in jeopardy due to financial troubles.

In November 2006, the Washington County Commissioners pledged $20,000 for the 2007 concert after officials said the program was in financial trouble.

Expenses for the event back then were more than $150,000, with the battlefield spending an additional $41,000 in direct and in-kind costs, according to Herald-Mail archives.

At the time, the concert pumped $350,000 to $500,000 into the local economy, according to archives.

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