February 28, 2023
In February 1950, The Charlotte Observer reported that a new Charlotte Symphony Women's Association would soon be incorporated with the aim of building and developing cultural activities in the Charlotte area through music. Mrs. Joseph A. Elliott Jr., who was temporary chairman of the association, called for "housewives, civic workers, businesswomen, and representatives from all facets of the city's population to join and help build a love of music."
Seventy-three years later, the renamed Symphony Guild of Charlotte is continuing that mission. With over 100 active members, The Guild has provided substantial financial and volunteer support over the years with an emphasis on supporting the CSO's Youth Orchestra and Education programs.
At a recent get-together over coffee, some of The Guild's longest-serving members -- many of them past Presidents -- shared fond memories of how they came to be involved with The Guild, and the many members they met who soon became friends. Much of the conversation, and laughter, centered on The Guild's most successful -- and laborious -- fundraising venture: The Designer Show House.
Started in 1972 to raise funds for the Symphony's school concerts and Youth Orchestra, the first Designer Show House took place in a stately home on Park Road, now part of Forest Hill Church. Members of the Guild partnered with the Carolinas Chapter of the American Institute of Interior Designers to refurbish the home and make it available to the public for 3 weeks. Music was provided by Charlotte Symphony musicians and a shuttle bus took visitors to the house from SouthPark. The Charlotte Observer reported that it was the first fundraiser of its kind in Charlotte, but it took a toll on the members, who had to fill 650 volunteer slots, working as hostesses and staffing the basement tearoom. However, the venture was a success, raising $16,000 for the Symphony -- enough to keep the fundraiser going for 38 years before undergoing a facelift and becoming today's Heart of the Home Tour, which features tours of multiple homes in the Charlotte area.
Heart of the Home Tour 2019
It's obvious how proud the members are of their contributions as they reminisce over "their houses" -- the ones that were designed under their leadership. Recalling details of the rooms, designers' names, and how large the crowds were. It's even more obvious the fondness that the members have for each other.
Past President Linda Weisbruch remembers feeling a bit at sea after moving to Charlotte from Los Angeles in 1987. She decided to volunteer at the Designer House down the block from her home. She recalled that by the end of that first evening, she was in the back room counting the money. "They just said 'come on in, join us!' It was such a great organization and welcoming. So many of my friends come from being in The Guild, and I've had so many opportunities to do things I've never done before, being chair of a Designer House, being President of The Guild, and President of the Volunteer Council at the League of American Orchestras. None of that would have happened without me being bold enough to go down the street and ask to volunteer. I've gained a lot of very deeply loved friends."
Guild Members Linda Weisbruch and Melissa Woolf McCrory
Melissa Woolf McCrory, another former Guild President, agrees. "Some of my dearest friends have come from this organization. We work really hard, but I'm always amazed by the intelligence and efficiency. And oh, we've had a lot of fun -- there are a lot of great stories."
Now, after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Heart of the Home Tour is returning March 31-April 1. The two-day tour will include six beautiful homes featuring their kitchens and outdoor entertaining spaces which showcase trends for kitchen makeovers, bold design, and sustainable materials, along with fresh inspiration for entertaining indoors or out. Tour-goers will enjoy tastings from local chefs, sample signature beverages, and explore flower and jewelry options from local artisans while visiting six spectacular homes.
Proceeds allow The Symphony Guild to support the Charlotte Symphony, its youth orchestras, and The Guild's award-winning youth music education initiatives.
"I think it's vitally important that a community our size has a volunteer organization to support our Symphony," Woolf McCrory points out. "Because our symphony is so vital to the arts in our community, and a lot of people don't quite understand the impact they have. The symphony is an incredible gem to the arts in Charlotte."
Heart of the Home Details:
Taste of the Tour Party & Silent Auction
Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at 5:30-8:30 pm
Ferguson's South End Showroom (129 West Summit Avenue)
Tickets are available for purchase online
for $50 per person with a special rate of $40 for guests under 40.
Heart of the Home Tour
Friday, March 31, 5-8:30 pm and Saturday, April 1, 10 am-4 pm
Tickets are available for purchase online
for $35 per person
Learn more about The Symphony Guild of Charlotte, including how to become a member, at symphonyguildcharlotte.org.
May 5, 2022
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Tables are set and the stage is ready at The Fillmore Charlotte for the Symphony's second Sounds of Joy! gala event, supporting the CSO's education and community engagement initiatives.
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Behind the scenes, five talented high-school musicians from CMS prepare for their debut with Grammy-award-winning band Blood Sweat & Tears. (L-R: Floyd Carroll III, Alexys Shivers, and Zoe Tarrant from Northwest School of the Arts. Ricky Edwards and Manuella Gbossou from Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology High School)
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John Williams joins principal clarinetist Taylor Marino, CSO President & CEO David Fisk and David's wife, Anne O'Byrne, for a cocktail before dinner.
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Jeannette & Francisco Alvarado (right) and guests arrive for the celebratory cocktail reception.
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Kieth Cockrell, Alex & Ulrike Miles pose with Blood Sweat & Tears front man Keith Paluso.
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Sounds of Joy! attendees show off their "groovy cocktail attire."
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L.J. & Natasha Stambuk, and Macie Mata & Glenn Mincey toast to the Symphony before finding their table.
8 / 13
Symphony supporters Deanna Kelly and James Howell pose for a quick photo before dinner.
9 / 13
As dinner begins, CSO Board Chair Kimberly Parker welcomes guests and thanks the Symphony's generous sponsors for their leadership and vision.
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Guests of Ernst & Young, sponsors of Sounds of Joy!, enjoy a festive dinner.
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Ulrike Miles, Chair of the Symphony's Development Committee, enthusiastically speaks about the Charlotte Symphony's impactful education and community engagement programs.
12 / 13
The party moves outside as The Fillmore re-sets the room for the Blood Sweat & Tears concert. Guests enjoy a dessert and coffee bar al fresco.
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The crowd rocks out to the band's #1 hit, "Spinning Wheel," with CMS student musicians holding down the bass line and the brass section.
The Fillmore Charlotte was filled with the Sounds of Joy!
last night when supporters of the Charlotte Symphony gathered for a spectacular Gala evening featuring the incomparable Blood Sweat & Tears. Guests of the event enjoyed a pre-concert reception and al fresco dessert bar before rocking out to the Grammy-Award-winning band's greatest hits, performed alongside five talented CMS high school musicians. All proceeds from Sounds of Joy!
go to supporting the Symphony's education and community engagement initiatives.
The Charlotte Symphony gratefully acknowledges the following sponsors: Ernst & Young, Marand Builders, SteelFab, Ally, Domtar, KPMG, Honeywell, Spiracle Media, Albemarle Foundation, Atrium Health, Duke Energy, Kingfisher Capital, PDM US, The Dunhill Hotel, World's Greatest Golf Carts SC. Read more
December 14, 2020
Thank you for considering a gift as part of your year-end contributions! Your support provides stability and ensures that we remain committed to providing exceptional musical experiences across our community.
We wanted to tell you about some important CARES Act provisions that are scheduled to expire at year's end. These provisions make it easier for you to make a gift to the CSO!
- A temporary suspension of required minimum distributions (RMD) for the 2020 tax year. If you are 70 ½ or older, you can still make a gift from your IRA.
- An expanded charitable giving incentive that allows taxpayers who take the standard deduction to make up to $300 in charitable cash contributions to qualified charities this year.
- For those who itemize your deductions, the law allows for cash contributions to be deducted up to 100% of your adjusted gross income for the 2020 calendar year.
There are many ways to support your CSO. Please visit our Annual Giving page
to explore those options. You can make an online gift by visiting our Give Today page.
In addition, with the stock market at record highs, gifts of Securities or Mutual Funds can be a convenient way to make a contribution. For more information and transfer instructions, please click here
The Charlotte Symphony is sustained by the support of our donors. We are so grateful for your generosity, which touches and changes so many lives.
Please contact Leslie Antoniel
at 704.714.5139 or Micah Cash
at 704.714.5108 to discuss how your gift can help further our mission. Read more
September 11, 2020
|Think you can beat Beethoven in a race?
Lace up your running shoes for the Symphony Guild of Charlotte's first-ever virtual 5K and test your stamina! This socially-distanced run / walk celebrates Beethoven in his 250th birthday year and can be completed any time between November 6-8.
When you sign-up you'll receive a playlist featuring all four movements of Beethoven's energetic and tuneful 7th Symphony.
Finish the 5K before the 38-minute symphony ends. Participants will receive a custom t-shirt, finisher's medal, bib, goodie bag, and a special discount for select future CSO concerts.
All levels of participation are welcome. You can complete your run inside on your treadmill, outside in your neighborhood, or anywhere else inspiration takes you. Track your time and compete with others in our Strava Club
, complete the race on your own time, or "sleep in" and just register for the t-shirt. The choice is yours!
Proceeds from this event are used to support the Symphony Guild of Charlotte in its mission to support your Charlotte Symphony. Read more
November 1, 2019
|Taylor Maness is currently a senior at UNCC, and in the last year and a half she has interned at five Charlotte arts organizations, including your Charlotte Symphony. We were blown away by her ambition and dedication, so we asked her why she is voting FOR the quarter-cent sales tax referendum on Nov. 5. Find out below.
The Priceless Cost of Arts & Culture
By, Taylor Maness
If you've stepped outside, turned on your TV, or listened to your radio these past few weeks, you've heard about the possible quarter cent sales tax referendum that would support the arts, parks, and education in Mecklenburg County.
With tensions rising and Election Day quickly approaching, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to remember why we proposed this sales tax in the first place. Our arts organizations have been benefitting our community and the individuals within it, and now it's time that we give back to these organizations.
I understand that increasing a tax is no small ask, but, ultimately, I feel it's well worth it for reasons more profound that we're neglecting to see. These organizations strengthen our economy, educate us, and increase our overall quality of life.
Arts and cultural organizations have contributed significantly to economic growth in Mecklenburg County. Due to our vast array of cultural institutions, many tourists flock to Charlotte, generating $359 million in annual economic activity and employing over 11,180 people in our community.
These organizations also bridge gaps between cultural and political divide. We live in a world polarized by personal belief, and Charlotte is no different. One of my favorite things about art is that it is an outlet for individuals to express themselves in a way that is both comprehensive and peaceful.
On top of everything else, the arts improve our quality of life. It's easy to become consumed by work, school, and our other seemly endless string of responsibilities. We need to be excited, challenged, and fascinated. Some of my fondest memories of being in Charlotte revolve around me strolling through an art exhibit, going to a Broadway musical, or experiencing a live symphony performance. These are the occasions that have made my time here special. It saddens me to think that the opportunity to experience these magical moments may be taken away.
Art affects our lives in more ways than we know. We are fortunate to have these organizations that fill out lives with culture and innovation, and we should all want them to continue to thrive. This is why I encourage everyone to vote in favor of this tax referendum. We are voting on so much more than just simple sales tax; we are voting on the creative future of our community.
April 19, 2016
|The Charlotte Symphony has soared to new heights in the last few years. It's because of our donors that the orchestra has reached a new level of artistic excellence and has operated within a balanced budget for the last two years.
And there's never been a better time to be a Symphony donor in light of this exciting news: Four generous friends of the Symphony have come forward with a $100,000 challenge:
For every dollar contributed between now and May 16, they will match gifts received dollar-for-dollar!
The Charlotte Symphony board, musicians and staff would like to thank our current and future donors for their commitment to the Charlotte Symphony.
May 7, 2014
|Only three days remain to have your donation to the Symphony doubled in the Spring Challenge. If you give by Friday, May 9, Wells Fargo will match your contribution dollar-for-dollar. That helps your gift go further in supporting the Symphony programs you love.
Click here, or call 704.714.5108 to make your donation today.
As of this morning we are at 83% of our goal. Your gift will help us receive 100% of the match from Wells Fargo!
We sat down with our Executive Director, Robert Stickler, to discuss the challenge and why your support now is more meaningful than ever.
The 2013-14 season closes in this week. What were your highlights?
I thought the orchestra did an extraordinary job with [Holst's] The Planets in our opening concert. The brass was particularly strong. The Verdi Requiem last week was a strong collaboration between the Oratorio Singers, CSO, and soloists all brought together masterfully by Maestro Christopher Warren-Green. We at the CSO are particularly proud that the number of subscribers this season was higher than last year, indicating that we are bringing the community the music they want to hear.
Looking ahead to next season, the CSO is celebrating the anniversaries of Strauss and Sibelius, alongside works by Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. What are you most looking forward to hearing performed?
I love Sibelius in particular so that is what I am most excited about. The most interesting thing we are doing is bringing in Wu Man to play the pipa, a traditional Chinese instrument, in Jiping's Concerto for Pipa and Orchestra. That will be a concert with Mozart and Schubert, an example of where we try to mix the familiar with the less well known works to interest a wide audience.
|What do you think the Symphony contributes to Charlotte?
The CSO is the major purveyor of classic music, but we are also an important element in the cultural fabric of the community. We partner with other arts organizations to present innovative programs. Our musicians spend hundreds of hours in the schools working with students.
We provide two youth orchestras for those young people particularly interested in developing their musical skills.
Our musicians provide private lessons, play in ensembles at events all over the region, and regularly play at hospitals and other facilities where people cannot come to concerts. I cannot imagine Charlotte without the CSO.
How would you describe our audience to an outsider?
We have a diverse audience through all of our programs. We cater to the classical music enthusiast through the Wells Fargo Private Bank Classics series. We entertain with the Pops. We introduce new audiences to classical music through our innovative KnightSounds series. And we introduce youngsters to the orchestra through our Lollipops series for families. So we have senior citizens all the way to young families. KnightSounds, by the way, makes a great date night with all of the activities around the concert.
Wells Fargo and the CSO issued this Spring Challenge because we want audiences to know that "a donation of any size can make a huge difference". What makes a $10 contribution as impactful as a $1,000 contribution?
We want to have as many members of the CSO family as possible. It makes a difference when we talk to organizations that are considering financial support. Even a $10 contributions is an expression of support, so we do appreciate that. And $10 contributions sometimes grow larger over the years if the donor continues to enjoy what we do.
Don't forget! We only have until midnight Friday, May 9 to meet the Spring Challenge from Wells Fargo. Click here, or call us at 704.714.5108 to give today!
April 18, 2014
This spring, Wells Fargo has issued a challenge, "If your audience contributes $25,000 in new gifts by Friday, May 9, we will match them, dollar-for-dollar." We sat down with Jay Everette, Community Affairs Manager at Wells Fargo, to discuss the challenge and why it is an impactful way for Wells Fargo to show its support of the Symphony.
Why do you feel offering a challenge gift is an effective method to raise audience engagement?
Jay Everette: When our Wells Fargo Foundation issues a challenge grant we know from past experience that donors appreciate the fact that their contributions are matched and in effect doubled!
Wells Fargo is a leading supporter of the arts and culture in Charlotte. Why is this a priority for the company?
Our Foundation focuses on providing exceptional arts and culture experiences for our community. We know that the arts are an important part of our educational outreach as well.
What would you say to a Symphony audience member who feels their gift would not make a difference?
A donation of any size can make a huge difference in the operation and outreach of a nonprofit. For example, even a small contribution can purchase sheet music for a symphony musician. Nonprofit groups need contributions both large and small. Small gifts are a great opportunity to introduce children to the concept of philanthropy as well, so these types of challenge grants present a great way for families to support the Symphony.
|What was your most memorable Symphony experience this season?
Having the honor of being on stage to announce Wells Fargo's corporate underwriting support for the Itzak Perlman performance!
October 14, 2013
Many people think of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra as a Saturday night at the Belk Theater attended by upscale patrons in fine clothes.
I think of Max Rubio, a third-grade student at Winterfield Elementary School southeast of uptown. Max, 8, plays violin in the Winterfield Youth Orchestra, a program run with the Charlotte Symphony to allow children in a high-poverty school to experience classical music.
"What I like most of being part of orchestra is when we play concerts our parents come and they see us do something really nice," he says. "My parents take a video of the concerts and they show it to my good friend Nachito. I like playing the violin because it sounds sweet. Mr. Carlos [Tarzona, a CSO violinist] always helps me with the notes when it is hard and when I practice, the notes get better and better and I like that."
Winterfield is just one of the ways the CSO musicians give of themselves to Charlotte. CSO players challenge budding musicians at Northwest School of the Arts, interweave music and history in a Music of the Holocaust performance and introduce elementary students to symphonic music through sold-out education concerts. Altogether, the CSO reached more than 22,000 area students and teachers last year.
Whether in the Charlotte Mecklenburg schools or playing at occasions around the city, CSO musicians contribute to the cultural fabric of Charlotte in a unique way.
So imagine Charlotte without a symphony. I can't but I have friends who say if the orchestra can't make it on ticket sales alone, it shouldn't survive. No major orchestra can.
Major orchestras generate less than half of their revenue from tickets. The other half comes from a combination of private contributions, public money and endowment earnings. For the CSO, the split is roughly one-third from tickets and two-thirds from contributions.
Unfortunately, the orchestra financial model is imploding. Orchestras all over the country, even in the major markets, are suffering from severe financial strains. The venerable Philadelphia Orchestra a few years ago declared bankruptcy in order to reorganize its finances. The Minnesota Orchestra has been locked out for almost a year as management and musicians feud over demands for extensive retrenchment. There was a lockout in Atlanta. Orchestras in San Jose, Honolulu and New Mexico have gone out of business.
Public money is drying up. Private philanthropy has not been able to plug the gap. Of the 21 orchestras in Charlotte's peer group, 14 suffered operating losses in 2012. The CSO that year had a deficit of about $423,000.
Many communities, and Charlotte is no exception, are at a crossroads. Do they value a symphony orchestra as an important part of the community? If so, are they willing to pay for it? And in this case, "they" is both the private and public sectors. The public-private task force on how to fund the arts in Charlotte is an important step. But this community is below average in both the amount of private philanthropy and public money to support the arts.
In answering the question of financing our cultural future, I hope people think of Max Rubio.
Robert Stickler is president and executive director of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Read more here. Read more
September 9, 2010
"We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams"
So begins Arthur O'Shaughnessy's ode to the creative class. Like many others my age, I first head this refrain uttered by Gene Wilder in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." (The source of a number of many of my early cultural references...) It wasn't until years later that I took the time to read the whole poem. (It's good.) What reminded me of this poem recently was an article about an American symphony orchestra (not ours) that was in the process of laying the groundwork for some hoped-for long term financial stability (like ours...and so many others). In the article were quotes from civic leaders, corporate recruiters, politicians, and music professionals all hailing the importance of a successful symphony orchestra to their city.
Most comments focused on a successful orchestra being a source of civic pride, an important corporate recruiting tool, or a local cultural benefit. These benefits notwithstanding, many orchestras in America are struggling. Blame the economic downturn, changing demographics, or the proliferation of entertainment options, but orchestras are fighting an ongoing battle to justify their existence. A few have folded. It got me to thinking.
What if a symphony orchestra could actually be an educational, economic, and cultural catalyst to a city and its surroundings? What if that happened here?
Radical thinking, I know. But just for the fun of it, let's continue down this less traveled road. Charlotte perpetually strives to become a world class city. I know that because I read it in the paper every other day. Just what that means, of course, depends on your perspective. To some, it means the crime is low, the schools are good, and the train runs on time. To others, it means a vibrant cultural and sporting life. To others, something completely different. People inside and outside of Charlotte often poke fun at our civic status-seeking. And sure, as a city and as a region we aren't yet comfortable in our own skin. We try too hard to impress. But isn't this drive to become a better version of ourselves exactly the stuff that made Charlotte what it is today? We do not accept that this is all we can be. We desire. We hope. We aspire.
Great strides have been made in Charlotte to lay the financial groundwork for a viable symphony orchestra for years to come. There is much work to be done, of course, but thanks to the generosity and support of so many, the orchestra is in better shape than it has been for some time. What if we took things further, though? What if we adopted a vision to make Charlotte a recognized home for the arts and a leading cultural and musical center in the U.S.? Sure, there are many reasons why it wouldn't, couldn't, or shouldn't happen. But what if it did? What if we put together a plan to integrate the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra into the very fabric of life in Charlotte?
For years, music education has been considered a luxury, and is often one of the first programs to get cut when the budget tightens. But music education shouldn't be a luxury in our school systems; it should be an integral and irreplaceable part of the curriculum. A few years ago, Jonathan Fanton, then president of the MacArthur Foundation, put it this way: "The arts deepen our understanding of the human spirit, extend our capacity to comprehend the lives of others, allow us to imagine a more just and humane world. Through their diversity of feeling, their variety of form, their multiplicity of inspiration, the arts make our culture richer and more reflective."
Beyond that, there is strong evidence that music education that includes instrumental music performance from kindergarten through high school delivers measurable improvements in the math and science performance of students (another blog for another day...) The Charlotte region is moving to diversify its economic base and attempting to become a hub for energy and technology and other areas of economic development. It will increasingly need an employment base equipped with not only specific trade skills, but also with people who have broad ranging abilities in science and math. Music education can help. As a bonus, we develop a population of residents who are interested in and understand the value of the arts.
About three years ago, the nonprofit organization, Americans for the Arts, conducted an economic impact study and concluded that nationally, America's nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year. Closer to home, some folks launched an arts festival back in 1977 in Charleston as a companion to a similar festival in Italy. Today, Spoleto Festival USA is recognized as one of the world's leading festivals. Organizers estimate that the annual economic impact is over $55 million ($44 million from visitors) for the 17-day event. The festival also supports the equivalent of just under 1,000 jobs and over $20 million in local household income. I'm not suggesting that Charlotte attempt its own "Spoleto" necessarily. And yes, a 2-week music festival with out-of-town guest artists is a different animal from a resident orchestra. But rather than looking at the orchestra (and the arts in general) as a debit in the civic checkbook, we should recognize, develop, and promote the arts as an economic asset. I love sports, but they are not the only pursuits that deliver economic impact to a region.
"World class" or not, Charlotte is fast becoming an international city. We can fear that or embrace it. In making the transition from a "small town with a lot of people" to a true city-region, one of the benefits of attracting a broader scope of individuals is the cultural heritage they bring. Charlotte has always done a good job of embracing people with different backgrounds. Not diversity for the sake of being diverse, but embracing diversity as a means of enriching the cultural and economic fabric of the city. Already, we are seeing the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra begin a new venture with its KnightSounds concert series at the Knight Theater. Designed to engage audiences and let them experience the orchestra in a whole new way, KnightSounds is not about dumbing down the musical experience, but rather about opening it up to an expanded audience. It's a good start, and I hope we will continue to do more to reach out to the community that is not part of the traditional concert-going audience.
O'Shaughnessy's poem later reads:
...For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
We all know that times are difficult. That shouldn't stop us from dreaming or doing. Spoleto USA was launched in 1977. If you have forgotten or weren't around, the 1970s was the worst decade economically since the Great Depression. High inflation (over 13 percent by 1979), double-digit interest rates (the prime rate had hit 21.5 by the end of 1980), and not one, but two oil crises all contributed to a sluggish cynicism throughout the country and long lines at the gas station. If the Spoleto organizers had tried to "time the market" and waited until times got better to launch their festival, it may not have happened.
The Charlotte Symphony is working hard to get its financial house in order and develop a sound business plan for the future. It has a new Music Director who is talented, experienced, and passionate about his mission here. It is reaching out to new audiences. Now is the time to bring to birth a new age of music and the arts to Charlotte. Let's do it.