Charlotte Symphony Pulls Back from the Brink

December 22 & 31, 2009, Charlotte, NC: In some of the most encouraging cultural news of the year, the Charlotte Symphony has met several milestone goals on its road to recovery. Here are the most recent news releases from the orchestra:

Symphony Meets Challenge; Anonymous Donor Comes Forward

December 22, 2009: As CSO raises $500,000 in advance of December 31 deadline, donor pledges additional $50,000

The Charlotte Symphony (CSO) announced today that it has received the $500,000 in gifts necessary to match a challenge grant offered in August. The half-million-dollar challenge, which had to be met by December 31, 2009, was pledged anonymously.

Today, at the request of the Charlotte Symphony, donors Sandra and Leon Levine have made their gift public.

“The extraordinary generosity of Sandra and Leon Levine continues to lift up this community, addressing needs across the city, from healthcare and social services to education and the arts,” said CSO Board Chair Pat Rodgers. “Their challenge to the Symphony ignited broad philanthropic response, inspiring both new and longtime supporters to invest in our city’s orchestra. We are exceedingly grateful and are delighted that the community can now join us in thanking the Levines publicly for their exceptional gift.”

Since announcing the challenge grant on August 27, the Symphony has received nearly 100 individual matching donations, ranging in size from $5 to $200,000.

Upon hearing the news that the Symphony had met the half-million-dollar challenge, the Levines pledged an additional $50,000 to the Symphony’s 2009-2010 annual fund to underscore the call for continued annual operating support for the Symphony.

“The Charlotte Symphony has been a cornerstone of the city’s cultural life for nearly 80 years,” said Leon Levine. “It was our hope that the challenge gift would encourage widespread individual support for the Symphony from across the community. Charlotte’s non-profit sector requires an ongoing commitment – not only to address crises exacerbated by the current economic climate, but to create a solid foundation for the city’s future. We are pleased with the response to the challenge and look forward to seeing a continued broadening of support in our community for the Symphony.”

The Symphony’s donor base has grown significantly in 2009. As of December 1, the total number of first-time donors to the Symphony was five times the number of new donors at the same time last year.

“We are humbled by the profound generosity of Sandra and Leon Levine,” said CSO Executive Director Jonathan Martin, “and the many donors who, inspired by their challenge gift, responded strongly and affirmatively. As we enter the New Year, the Charlotte Symphony renews its dedication to serving the growing, dynamic Charlotte community.”

The $500,000 challenge and matching gifts contribute $1 million to a total of $5.6 million in “bridge funds” required over the next five years for the Symphony to maintain balanced fiscal operations, as it continues to improve its earned revenue and annual funding support and to grow its endowment.


Symphony Meets $1.77 Million “Bridge Fund” Goal for FY 2010; Focus shifts to building annual operating revenue

December 31, 2009: The Charlotte Symphony (CSO) announced today that it has met the $1.77 million “bridge fund” goal for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2010.

The “bridge fund” is a special fund created to allow the Symphony to maintain balanced budgets over the next five years as the Symphony continues to increase its annual operating revenue and build a larger endowment fund.

This fiscal year, the Charlotte Symphony reduced its operating expenses by more than a million dollars, down from $8.7 million in FY 2009 to $7.6 million in FY 2010, and established increased revenue goals – both from ticket sales and contributions. Nevertheless, given its small endowment fund, a decrease in funding from the Arts & Science Council for this fiscal year, and effects from the economic downturn, those measures alone would not result in a balanced budget, even if all revenue goals are met. The $1.77 million fund, therefore, will bridge the operating gap for this fiscal year.

As the Charlotte Symphony improves its annual operating revenue and grows its endowment over the next six years, the operating gaps are projected to gradually decrease. At the end of this period the improvements are expected to produce sustainable balanced budgets. The Symphony is raising a total of $5.6 million in special bridge funding to cover the projected operating gaps during that six-year period.

The bridge fund campaign began this summer with audience-contributed donations from the July 3 “Celebrate America” concert in Symphony Park and continued with over $500,000 in additional contributions from Symphony Board members. In August, an anonymous $500,000 challenge gift was issued, and on December 23, the Symphony announced that it had successfully matched this gift, acknowledging Sandra and Leon Levine as the donors of the challenge gift. In September the Symphony announced two separate $1 million pledges, from Hugh and Jane McColl and from the Spangler family, through the C.D. Spangler Foundation. Throughout the summer and fall, hundreds of additional individual donations were made to this special bridge fund from both new and longtime Symphony supporters.

“Support from the community has been extraordinary, and we are profoundly grateful,” said CSO Executive Director Jonathan Martin. “Now that the bridge fund goal has been met for this year, we must turn our focus to meeting our budgeted revenue goals for this fiscal year. Many challenges remain for the Charlotte Symphony, and now our number one job is to continue to make the most compelling case possible for the community to invest in its orchestra through increased annual support.”

The budget for FY 2010 calls for $2.3 million in earned income through ticket sales and $2.8 million in contributed revenue (excluding the $1.77 million bridge funding). As of the end of December, the Symphony is on track to meet both goals, helped significantly by recent gifts to the annual fund of $100,000 by Wells Fargo and an additional $50,000 from Sandra and Leon Levine.

The Symphony’s donor base broadened substantially in 2009, with more than one thousand individual donations since August. As of this month, the total number of first-time donors to the Symphony was five times the number of new donors at the same time last year. Likewise, the number of Classics subscribers has grown for the fourth consecutive year, as has the total subscription revenue.

(Press releases courtesy of the CSO.)



December 18, 2009, Davidson, NC: WDAV 89.9 Classical Public Radio announced today that as of January 18, 2010, the station will take over production of National Public Radio’s World of Opera, keeping in place NPR’s successful creative team of host Lisa Simeone and producer Bruce Scott. WDAV General Manager Benjamin K. Roe is the new executive producer. The show will continue to be marketed and distributed by NPR.

NPR World of Opera, carried now by 87 public radio stations across the nation, is the only radio show in America devoted to broadcasting full-length operas captured in performance from around the world. Productions from La Scala, Bayreuth, Vienna, Paris, and Geneva regularly grace NPR World of Opera’s airwaves, as well as performances from great American opera companies, including Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Glimmerglass, Santa Fe, and New York City Opera. The production team of Simeone and Scott has been together since 2002, when Roe, then NPR’s Director of Music, paired them. While this new partnership is a first for WDAV, the organization is poised for the opportunity.

“In the last 18 months, we’ve been working to re-position WDAV as a strong source for original classical music productions from the Carolinas and beyond,” explains Roe. “This partnership with NPR puts us squarely now in front of a national audience – a step we welcome. I’m especially thrilled to be reunited with Lisa Simeone and Bruce Scott – two of the most creative and dedicated talents I’ve known in my thirty years of broadcasting.”

Adds Anya Grundmann, Executive Producer for NPR Music, “We know NPR World of Opera is in good hands, given Ben Roe’s history with the show and his award-winning classical music production credits. For NPR, this arrangement lets us continue our long, proud history of supporting opera in performance, beginning with the 1972 world premiere of Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha — the work that subsequently won Joplin the first posthumous Pulitzer Prize in Music.”

About Lisa Simeone, Host of NPR World of Opera: Lisa Simeone has been the host of NPR World of Opera since July 2002. She has more than 25 years’ experience in radio and television, including as host of All Things Considered, Performance Today, Weekend Edition and the Metropolitan Opera. She also hosts the nationally syndicated Chicago Symphony Orchestra Radio Broadcast Series and the internationally syndicated documentary series Soundprint. Simeone earned a B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland and an M.A. from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.

About WDAV 89.9 Classical Public Radio: WDAV is fast becoming a national showcase for the arts in the Carolinas, thanks to its round-the-clock classical music programming, original productions, live broadcasts, commissioned concerts, video, podcasts, and social media. A service of Davidson College, WDAV’s 89.9FM signal reaches a 22-county region centered in the Charlotte, NC metro area and ranging from Rock Hill, SC to Galax, VA. WDAV’s broadcasts can be heard live online 24 hours a day at and iTunes, as well as on any iPhone equipped with the Public Radio Player.

Details: WDAV 89.9 carries World of Opera on Saturday evenings at 7 p.m.. It is streamed online as well at WHQR 91.3 in Wilmington carries the show on Saturday afternoons at 1:30 p.m. when they don’t carry a Met broadcast. Re on-demand: different opera companies agree to different broadcast terms. If you go to the NPR World of Opera site – – you’ll see that each show offers (at least) on-demand listening of one or more selections from the show, as well as the show introduction. WDAV hopes to offer more multimedia elements going forward.


And finally, Tom Philion, former Executive Director of the Eastern Music Festival, has stepped down as President and Executive Director of the Seattle Symphony. For details, click here.


OPERA America Announces Recipients of the 2010 National Opera Trustee Recognition Award – Long Leaf Opera’s Benjamin Keaton Is Among the Recipients

January 19, New York, NY: OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2010 National Opera Trustee Recognition Award. In its third year, this award honors trustees of U.S. opera companies for exemplary leadership, generosity and audience-building efforts on behalf of their respective opera companies.

The 2010 National Opera Trustee Recognition honorees are Marc I. Stern of Los Angeles Opera, Jeffrey A. Evershed of Portland Opera, Eve and Fred Simon of Opera Omaha and Benjamin Keaton of Long Leaf Opera (North Carolina).

OPERA America is committed to recognizing strong trustee leaders, acknowledging the pivotal role they play in the success of opera companies and the vitality of the communities they serve. By celebrating the dedication of board members at the national level, the National Opera Trustee Recognition Program seeks to inspire exemplary service to opera companies and to strengthen the relationships between opera companies and their trustees across the U.S.

“We are delighted to celebrate the substantial achievements of these dedicated trustees,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president and CEO of OPERA America. “The National Opera Trustee Recognition Award provides OPERA America and the opera community with the opportunity to recognize those who have been so generous in their passion for the art form, vision and support of their opera companies.”

Each year, OPERA America member companies are invited to nominate one of their trustees for this award. Honorees from each of the four OPERA America budget levels are chosen by an adjudication committee through a competitive selection process.

The honorees represent a significant range of accomplishments, generosity and a deep commitment to promoting opera in their communities.”

The following profile illustrates just a few examples of the dedication of these trustees:

Benjamin Keaton, Long Leaf Opera (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, NC)

“Twelve years ago, conductor and composer Benjamin Keaton co-founded Long Leaf Opera with Randolph Umberger as an alternative company with two missions: to present exclusively operas written originally in English and to develop a multicultural company of artists at all levels. Concerned with the lack of opportunities for young American composers, Mr. Keaton set out to recruit the finest regional and national composing talents available and to follow a colorblind casting policy on stage, in the pit and in the board room. Since then, Mr. Keaton has overseen the production of 33 operas, including seven world premieres. In 2007, Keaton established an international competition for new operatic works, and to date over 100 compositions have been received from countries including Germany, Australia and the U.K. Under his baton, the company’s orchestra and vocalists have evolved from local performers to a professional company of artists with established careers at major opera houses both in Europe and the U.S. In his 12 years on the board of directors, Mr. Keaton has served as vice-chair and treasurer, and has tirelessly encouraged others to donate time and money to Long Leaf Opera. A native of Belhaven, NC, Keaton holds a Master’s degree from East Carolina University, where he was a founding member of the Zeta Psi Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha and where he has recently endowed scholarships for voice majors. Keaton taught 20th century music and theory for 18 years at NCCU and has served as maestro for musical organizations throughout the southeast and west. He has directed in England and serves as opera advisor to Chez Nous Productions in Paris. He is a composer of vocal and instrumental music and was recently awarded the Durham Jaycees Outstanding Citizen Award and the ECU School of Music’s Distinguished Alumni Award for 2009.”