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 McCroryMelissa 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.