The answer to too much “stuff”

February 27th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

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Never mind more “stuff”–there are better ways!

A few years ago, a good friend of mine started a “stuff boycott” because of her slightly cramped living quarters. At first I tried to circumvent these rules by just buying her small things, or taking her to dinner for birthdays or holidays.  It soon dawned on me that a smarter way to honor her on these special occasions would be to make a donation in her honor to a non-profit whose mission she supported. She started to do the same for me.

We were both just as happy as if we had received some”thing” from the other. Actually, we were even happier because we felt like we were passing on our good fortune of having a great friendship to others. What I haven’t done (yet) is something that some of our most ardent supporters have done over the years: request donations to their favorite organization (in this case, the Hartford Symphony) in their honor, in lieu of gifts for the holidays or their birthday.

If you look at our concert program guide, you will see a page of people who have given in honor of or in memory of someone special in their lives. One of these special people is Elizabeth White, a long-time subscriber and supporter of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Rather than presents at the holidays, Elizabeth asks her sons to make a contribution to the HSO in her honor.  As Elizabeth says,

“[We] really don’t need any more “things”.  I wish all the HSO audience, of any age, would make such a donation request to their friends and families.  The amount is anonymous and as you know, every little bit helps.  No amount is too small. “

We are often asked how people can go about doing this. It’s actually a lot simpler than you might think. Let your friends and family know that you’d like them to make a contribution to the HSO for an occasion (your birthday, graduation, marriage, anniversary, bar or bat mitzvah, the holidays, confirmation, etc.). They can call us, mail us or make a donation online and indicate that it is in your honor to celebrate your special occasion. They of course receive their acknowledgment for their tax-deductible donation, and we will notify you that they have made a gift in your honor, but we do not disclose the amount. You can’t get any easier than that!

So, the next time you have something to celebrate and you’re looking around realizing you don’t need anything, consider asking others to make a gift to the HSO to honor you. It’s an “extra” way to support the music you love, the community you love and avoid accumulating more things to dust!

“I want to play all the instruments you have…”

December 29th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

With the end of 2012, we wanted to share a few of our favorite thank you notes from students in our community. Our Education & Community Outreach programs reach tens of thousands of students in the Hartford region, and like everything we do at the HSO, it would not be possible without support from our friends like you.

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So, our thanks to YOU, our subscribers, concert attendees, donors and advocates.

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If you’d like to make an end-of-year gift to the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, you can do so securely online. Your gift will give us the resources to continue bringing music to everyone in our community, including our friend who writes below, “When I grow up, I want to play all the instruments you have.” That’s the kind of enthusiasm we like to see!

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Happy New Year!

Why the Arts are Better than Fruitcake

December 4th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s officially the holidays, which means it’s gift-giving season! Over the past few years, I’ve realized that we, as a society, have an excessive amount of “stuff”. This is why I want to encourage all of you to save yourselves the pain of driving and parking at the mall or big box stores, as well as the crowds and lines. (I swear it’s not because I want that good parking space for myself.)

Instead, give something a little more special for the holidays this year–give your friends and families the arts. Experiencing a performance, a night out with the girls, or a family outing gives so much more than say, a scented candle or bath salts or the dreaded obligatory tie…or worse, a chia pet. Make a memory together that will be something that will bring joy for years to come. Who knows? Perhaps you will start a wonderful tradition for you and the people special to you. As an added bonus, you’ll be contributing to the vibrancy and success of your local arts organizations! (Be honest, you know that chia pet will not give you a nice family memory.)

We at the Hartford Symphony have concerts that are perfect for just about everyone (of course). If you want to create that holiday tradition, bring the family to the Holiday Cirque Spectacular right around Christmas–it’s perfect for everyone, even your little ones. The music is fabulous, yet familiar for those not “into” classical music. For those who find comfort in the familiar classics, make an outing to our performance of Handel’s Messiah with CONCORA.

If you want to give someone the gift of the concert experience later in the year (and I’m telling you, you do), our Masterworks series is perfect for the classical music lover–from Mozart to Gershwin, even some unexpected programming. For the all-out romantic, we’ve got it covered too. Our Pops! series has concerts for the food lover (so don’t buy those rooster pot holders), the baseball fanatic, and the musical theatre lover.

One of our newer series, Jazz & Strings is perfect for your funkier friend who will love concerts featuring tributes to Wes Montgomery and Billie Holiday–which means you don’t have to buy that Jerry Garcia tie. You have an art lover? We have our Sunday Serenades chamber series at the Wadsworth Atheneum which features programming inspired by art in absolutely lovely surroundings. Do you have an ardent environmentalist? A photography buff? Our special multimedia event, LIFE: A Journey Through Time is perfect for both.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that you can also make a donation to the HSO In Honor of of your favorite music lover for the holidays, or In Memory of a beloved music lover who has passed. This will help us to bring the gift of music to everyone in our community. And, it’s really easy to wrap (hello, going green!).

We also want to encourage you to support our fellow arts organizations throughout the season–there’s so much going on and we don’t want you to miss any of it! The HSO is part of Christmas with the Hartford Chorale. The impressive CONNetic Dance Company has a funky production of The Nutcracker Suite & Spicy. Both Hartford Stage and Theaterworks have great holiday productions. If you want something a little less holiday-themed, check out Playhouse on Park’sDriving Miss Daisy.

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For the greater good of all of us (and digestive systems everywhere), forgo the fruitcake and gift the arts instead! (wikicommons, user Jonathunder)

However you decide to gift your friends and family this year, we do hope that you will remember your local arts organizations as perfect options for just about everyone! I promise, your loved ones will thank you for not buying them more scented lotion or fruitcake but giving them something a little more special. The arts never go stale…but then again, I’m not sure fruitcake does either. Happy Holidays!

Show Your Support (Without Opening Your Wallet!)

October 25th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

During a recent conversation, I was asked “So, what can I do to support the Hartford Symphony?” Obviously, the first answer that came to my mind as a fundraiser was, “Make a donation!”. However, I realized that the true answer to that question requires more depth. Of course, donations are integral to ensuring our continued success and very existence as they always have been. But, in addition to making a donation, there’s so much that people can do to support the HSO.

  • Get your friends together: While you may attend concerts yourself, we always love to see new faces in the audience! Bring your friends to a concert for a night out that’s more than just dinner and drinks (you can still have those too!). You know that we have programming for everyone, but your friends may not. Be the one to introduce them to something different!
  • Bring your children or grandchildren: Talk about building future audiences! For most of us who love the Symphony, our best memories are attending with our parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles or even with a school group. Make memories for all of you, and share your love of music with new generations.
    Hartford Symphony's Picnic in the Park: September 25, 2011

    Hartford Symphony’s Picnic in the Park: September 25, 2011

    • Be our advocate: Be a vocal supporter of the arts whether it’s in conversation with others, or even taking a more active part by joining the League of American Orchestras or Americans for the Arts in their advocacy campaigns. These organizations make it easy to voice your concerns to your local representatives when support for the arts is under fire.
    •  Use your tickets: So this one definitely sounds strange, right? We certainly want you to use your tickets so you can enjoy every note that Carolyn Kuan and HSO play for you! However, we know that things come up and you may not be able to make it to a concert. If this happens, please know that you can exchange for another concert, or you can donate your tickets back to the HSO for a tax deduction. This is especially helpful for concerts like this past weekend where we find ourselves sold out, but with people still wanting to attend concerts.
    • Make the most of your donation: I admit it, this one does have to do with making a gift. However, did you know that many employers have matching gift programs? It costs you nothing, except for a few minutes filling out information online or a form provided by your employer, and you could be increasing your gift to the HSO by 30%, 50% or even doubling it!
    • Volunteer: We have volunteer opportunities for ushering at our Jazz and Strings and Sunday Serenades series. Also, our Talcott Mountain Music Festival would not happen without our hundreds of volunteers who assist with everything from set-up to parking or ticket-taking. For more information on this, contact 860-246-8742, ext. 301.

    As you can see, you can support the Hartford Symphony in many ways that does not involve just making a donation. Thank you for being a part of the HSO’s success in so many ways! Are there any that I’ve missed?

Arts Fundraising…Why?

September 17th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

As we move into a new season (and the advent of our new blog), I began to think about the question I get from many friends and family members–why does the symphony need to fundraise? I’m not here to make the argument that music is life-changing and influences us all; let’s assume that we agree on that point as you are reading our blog. I’m looking to explain why fundraising is so integral to the success of the arts.

When the majority of people think of donating money to a charity, issues like hunger, homelessness, animal abuse and disease research come to mind. Until the past few years, I would have included myself in this majority. Performing arts organizations, and perhaps even more so,  orchestras, are often accompanied by the assumption that they are only for the well to do and thus self-sustaining. That assumption is wrong on both counts.

Orchestral music doesn’t exist  just for the affluent; it exists for everyone to be able to experience, learn from, and (hopefully!) enjoy as much as we do. The Hartford Symphony does indeed play large concerts in venues like The Bushnell and Simsbury Meadows for which tickets are purchased. However, we have taken many steps to ensure that ticket prices are affordable for as many people as possible, including student ticket prices and lower priced tickets for those under the age of 40. We’ve also kept all of our other ticket prices the same for the past few years.

None of this is a coincidence, or laziness; we want to make sure that we are not pricing out anyone who would want to come to a concert. For those who can’t get to a concert, we do our best to bring the music to them through free performances in various locations in the Greater Hartford area, programs in public schools, and more. This is because it’s so important to us that everyone, no matter who they are, where they live in our community, or how much money they make, should be able to experience our music.

But, all of this comes at a cost. In keeping our ticket prices low, we only cover a fraction of what it takes to put on the high quality performances that the community deserves. While other countries, most notably in Europe, acknowledge this universal “right” to the arts, and substantially support arts institutions with funding, this is not the case in the United States. (Please note that I’m not saying whether or not I think the government should; I’m just pointing out that any government funding is a small fraction of most arts organizations’ budgets.)   This is where private fundraising comes in. In order to keep doing everything we want to do, we rely on donors to help us fund our mission to bring music into our community–to everyone in our community–through our numerous series and programs. Our largest piece of fundraising comes from thousands of generous individuals giving every year because they, too, think everyone deserves to experience our music.

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Whatever level a donor gives, it matters.  All of those dollars add up–from the extra $5 you donate when purchasing your subscription every spring, to the $2,500 each of our Maestra’s Society members give annually. It’s not just about the dollar amount, but also about the message it sends. We are coming together and saying that we all believe that it is important to make fantastic music available to everyone in our community.

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