ARCHIVED  October 1, 1997

Fort Collins Symphony warms up for next 50

FORT COLLINS — If ever an organization got by with a little help from its friends, the Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra is it.
The 17 members of the board of the Symphony Association, the governing body, serve for three years at a time, leave and come back to serve again.
The 34-year-old Women˜s Guild —approximately 150 members strong — raises upwards of 10 percent of the symphony˜s budget and acts as a volunteer marketing arm for the symphony in its educational outreach efforts.
And then there is Maestro Will Schwartz, who founded the symphony 49 years ago and who has just announced that he will step down after the orchestra˜s 50th season. Schwartz has been the first and only conductor of the Fort Collins Symphony, shepherding it through lean times and giving up his salary for a year to help make ends meet.
A Juilliard-trained violinist who made his debut at Carnegie Hall and toured Europe, Maestro Schwartz did not expect to stay in Fort Collins at the A&M college where he had received an appointment as Professor of Violin, Orchestra and Conducting. But with the first rehearsal on Oct. 5, 1949, the community, the college and the school district claimed the orchestra and conductor as their own.
It was not until the 1950s that the nonprofit Fort Collins Symphony Association was formed to become the governing board of the symphony. And in 1969, 20 years after the founding of the symphony, the board appointed its first professional business manager.
"The board today is a working board," said Becky Conner, vice president of the board. "Each person works on at least one committee, sometimes more."
Committees guide everything from marketing to picking the theme and the music for the season. In addition, the board appoints the key administrative personnel, including the artistic director and the newly hired executive director, Lee Hill.
"Grant writing is the name of the game," Conner said. "and we were impressed by Lee Hill˜s strength in that area. We have devoted support for the symphony, but funding is critical as we move into our next 50 years and make plans to enhance our place as a fine regional orchestra."The Women˜s Guild
The sole purpose of the Women˜s Guild is to support and promote the growth of the Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra financially, socially, and educationally. This mission statement lays claim to an old-fashioned belief that the arts, in this case classical music, should be at the heart of the social and educational constructions of a community.
Recent giving from the Guild has run between $35,000 and $40,000 a year, a level which (relative to the size of the symphony˜s expenses) has placed the Guild at the top of guilds in the nation.
"We are particularly proud of our education program," said Lou Holz, a past president of the Guild. "In partnership with the Poudre-R School District, as well as with private schools and home schoolers, we make it possible for fourth and sixth graders to go to several concerts. These visits may be the first exposure for these kids to the symphony."
Acknowledging that any contemporary fund-raising organization must pay attention to the realities of careful accounting and target marketing, the guild has in recent years made it a point to update its business practices.
"A community needs something for its soul," argues Guild president-elect Gayle Wunder. "Our goal is to become even more skilled at attracting the underwriting that will sustain and improve our symphony fund raisers."Looking to the future
Lee Hill, new executive director of the symphony, understands that the work of the Guild goes beyond the money it raises. The Guild keeps the community prepared to hear about classical music, and against that backdrop, it is a bit easier to solicit corporate funding and to sell out the hall.
"My job is to look to the future," said Hill, an experienced grant writer and fund raiser, "and to make sure the money is there to support us when we arrive."
Aside from the challenges of raising money for the long term, Hill also must negotiate some tricky marketing hurdles. "One of my goals is to reach people with different styles and different experiences of the arts," she said. "Sometimes there is a mysterious split between the tastes of traditional supporters of classical music and those of newcomers or a new generation. "
As Hill looks beyond the 50th birthday of the Fort Collins Symphony, she sees much about which she can be optimistic.
"Will Schwartz gave this community a gift that we are in a position to build on. The Poudre School district has an excellent fine-arts coordinator who is on the symphony board. Combined with the efforts of the Women˜s Guild, we can strengthen our outreach to schools and get children exposed to the classics that have been largely ignored by the entertainment industry."

FORT COLLINS — If ever an organization got by with a little help from its friends, the Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra is it.
The 17 members of the board of the Symphony Association, the governing body, serve for three years at a time, leave and come back to serve again.
The 34-year-old Women˜s Guild —approximately 150 members strong — raises upwards of 10 percent of the symphony˜s budget and acts as a volunteer marketing arm for the symphony in its educational outreach efforts.
And then there is Maestro Will Schwartz, who founded the symphony 49 years ago and who has…

SPONSORED CONTENT

Care and coverage together for your employees

At Kaiser Permanente, we offer a unique care model. Not only do we provide care and coverage together (i.e. health plans and health care), but we also pioneered value-based care.

Categories:
Sign up for BizWest Daily Alerts