Every dollar given to the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra now is worth two.
The symphony has received a $1.5 million challenge grant from the Amon G. Carter Foundation and has launched a campaign called “Play Your Part: 3 Steps to $3 Million Challenge.” The Carter foundation will match $500,000 per year for the next three years, resulting in a potential $3 million in new revenue for the FWSO.
The grant comes about two months after the orchestra and its musicians resolved a labor strike that had canceled concerts from mid-September through the end of the year.
“There were a lot of people who were bereft when the symphony wasn’t performing,” FWSO president Amy Adkins said in an interview Monday. “Now is an opportunity for them to step up and make a difference.”
The foundation will match contributions up to $10,000 from new, lapsed and existing donors who increase their donation and pledge the same level of support for the subsequent two years. It will not apply to donors who give more than $25,000 annually already.
“It is our intent for this challenge grant to encourage broader community support for the symphony and substantially expand the base of ongoing donors,” John Robinson, executive vice president of the Amon G. Carter Foundation, said in a statement.
A successful $3 million campaign would help the FWSO stabilize its financial situation, Adkins said. In the past few years, the orchestra has ended its seasons with deficits ranging from $500,000 to $700,000. Although it generated $11.9 million in revenues, with 211,770 concertgoers in the 2015-2016 season, the symphony had a budget shortfall of $456,614.
The orchestra’s finances were center stage during the three-month musicians’ strike, which ended in early December when an anonymous donor pledged $700,000 that allowed management to offer musicians a new contract that did not cut their salaries.
While the musicians were on strike, violist Dan Sigale said, many people asked how they could be more involved in the symphony. “We hope this will be an opportunity to bring the community at large in to the fold and to give them more of a stake in our orchestra,” Sigale said.
The orchestra currently employs 61 full-time musicians with an average salary of $62,000 and health benefits. Their new four-year contract includes a salary wage freeze for two years and then small increases in the last two years.
Mercedes T. Bass, FWSO chairman of the board, said the orchestra “would love to” pay its musicians more, but if the organization is unable to raise funds from the community, that will not happen.
“I can’t constantly be writing the checks and supporting the symphony because it will eventually become known as my symphony, and it’s not. It’s the community’s symphony. The Fort Worth symphony,” Bass said. “Even if people spend $100, that $100 makes a difference.”
The FWSO will kick off the new campaign at its annual gala Saturday. The gala, the orchestra’s most important fundraiser of the year, starts with an all-Mozart concert at Bass Hall featuring soprano Danielle de Niese and pianist Menahem Pressler and ends with a black-tie dinner at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel. Tickets for both events are still available at www.fwsymphony.org.
Bass, a longtime supporter of the FWSO who has had a lifelong passion for classical music, said Fort Worth’s orchestra is just as good as the Berlin Philharmonic she saw perform at Carnegie Hall last year.
“I don’t know if the community realizes it, but to have an orchestra that is this good, it costs money,” Bass said. “Once you realize what you have, I think, hopefully, you would want to support it.”
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