Toledo Symphony plays solo in pursuing city fundingWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As Toledo Symphony Orchestra musicians rehearse and organizers book plane tickets for cellos, harps and humans, Toledo City Council members are mulling over a request to help foot the bill.
The orchestra recently asked council for $10,000 to aid its trek to New York City in May, where the group will perform at the inaugural Spring for Music festival at Carnegie Hall. Six others out of 25 applicants were selected.
“The debut in Carnegie Hall is the epitome of achievement,” said Kathleen Carroll, president and CEO of TSO. “We think the city could use an optimistic focal point. We are hoping that we are giving people a reason to feel good, even if momentarily, about their lives and their community and their orchestra.”
Council members will decide whether to approve the request on Dec. 7. The money would come from the Paul Block trust fund bequeathed for arts, parks and recreation, said Councilmember D. Michael Collins. He has received numerous e-mails calling for him to vote against the proposal because of the poor economy.
“I look at the city of Toledo from a marketing standpoint and in order to be able to pull ourselves out of the economy we’re in we have to compete on an international level,” Collins said. “When you’re competing on an international level, the arts are very important as part of our portfolio.”
Toledo is the only city faced with that decision out of the five other American cities home to participating orchestras. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Albany Symphony Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra have not requested city funding for the event.
The Oregon Symphony originally asked Portland for $200,000, but rescinded the request because of the poor state of the city’s economy, said President Elaine Calder. Instead, they’ve scored about $60,000 from state and federal grants and pulled in tens of thousands of dollars from private donors and a gala, she added.
“It would have been impossible for the city to give us the money and it would have been politically bad for us,” Calder said.
The trip will cost the Oregon Symphony about $300,000 while TSO’s costs are projected at about $250,000. Oregon’s orchestra has an annual $14 million budget, compared to the TSO’s $6 million budget, which Carroll described as “constantly eroding.”
The city allotted about $100,000 to TSO every year until the local economy soured a few years ago. That change, along with the less than half of one percent of state funding the TSO receives has made for tougher times, Carroll said.
Still, Carroll said, the TSO has attracted strong local support.
At least 100 people have purchased tickets from TSO to attend the Carnegie Hall event, even though the orchestra will perform the program at the Peristyle on April 29 and 30. The program is an avant-garde surprise not to be revealed until February, said Ashley Mirakian, director of marketing and public relations.
The six American and one Canadian orchestras were selected based on innovative programming, said Mary Lou Falcone, director of public relations for the Spring for Music festival. All orchestras will receive at least $50,000 to play and additional box office revenue from tickets mostly priced at $25 each.
“The idea was if the orchestra didn’t ever have to be bothered with selling a ticket, what would be the ideal program that you would want to present that represented who you were and what your philosophy of music making is,” Falcone said.
Displaying that philosophy in Carnegie Hall, a place TSO has never ventured, seems a worthy cause for money from the Block trust, said Steve Herwat, Deputy Mayor of Operations.
The particular $10,000 would come from interest from investments, he said. The fund is allotted specifically for arts and recreation. The city has borrowed from the fund in the past to fill budget holes but plans to return the money with future casino revenues, he said.
The TSO has raised about $200,000 for the festival from private donors and a National Endowment for the Arts grant, still far from the $250,000 mark. But the pursuit won’t stop if council says no.
“You don’t run an orchestra unless you have bones made out of hope,” Carroll said.