Austin Classical Organizations

Don't break out the violins yet

These days artists and arts organizations are feeling the pinch like everybody is, and it's tempting to bemoan one's sad status. But one group that isn't breaking out the violins is Austin's classical music community. Instead, a couple of our most prominent local classical companies are taking steps to address the economic crisis before it cripples their ability to produce work or, as is happening with an alarming number of classical companies across the country, even survive. These organizations are being fiscally responsible and, as such, provide models for other ailing members of our cultural community:

Austin Lyric Opera has canceled the 2009 Opera Ball, its huge fundraising gala that is traditionally held in late January, in favor of the Curve Ball, a cleverly titled campaign that speaks to the loop everyone has been thrown by the financial collapse and suggests a nonevent to which donors may contribute without the fuss that goes with a big social wingding. The campaign aims to raise the same $170,000 that the Opera Ball would have but without the expenses involved. Donors who pledged gifts for the Opera Ball have allowed those gifts to go to the Curve Ball.

Conspirare has postponed the premiere of a new choral work that it commissioned from the prominent composer Eric Whitacre. Originally scheduled for June of this year, the work was to close out the company's 2008-2009 season and be recorded, but with donations down at the end of the year, the company felt it more prudent to delay the $275,000 project until January of the 2009-2010 season. In its place, Conspirare is offering a program of spirituals performed by all three company ensembles: the Chamber Choir, the Symphonic Choir, and the Youth Choir.

And not all the economic news has been grim. Austin Symphony Orchestra has actually had cause to celebrate – first with a $1 million gift from philanthropist extraordinaire James Armstrong, who recently pledged $1 million to Zach Theatre's proposed new building, to endow the James C. Armstrong Youth Education Program for the Austin Symphony to support the orchestra's Building Blocks, Young People's Concerts, and High School Concerts, then with a two-year, $50,000 grant from the Dell Foundation to support the education program Chat With the Maestro, a chat room for local elementary school students from underserved schools in which they can visit with Maestro Peter Bay and learn about music and develop their computer skills at the same time.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Lyric Opera, Conspirare, Austin Symphony Orchestra, Peter Bay, James Armstrong, Eric Whitacre

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