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April 9, 2009

National Symphony gives boost to struggling Arkansas orchestra

Here's a little good news, for a change, from the recession. During its visit to Arkansas -- the 19th state visited so far in the ambitious American Residencies project -- the National Symphony Orchestra gave a concert to help raise money for the struggling North Arkansas Symphony. Here's the result, as reported this week in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

FAYETTEVILLE - For months the insolvent North Arkansas Symphony hung its hopes on this one spring concert.

It seemed an improbable stand. The symphony was following a truncated 2008 schedule with absolutely nothing on the 2009 calendar save this performance, and this one not of its own players but the guest National Symphony Orchestra.

Well, maybe it worked.

Maestro Ivan Fischer and his orchestra of about 100 played to a full and vocal Walton Arts Center house March 30. After a regular slate that included Wagner and Weiner, Bernstein and Dvorak, the crowd yahoo-ed and clapped Fischer and his players on to two encores, Dvorak's Slavonic Dance, op.72 No. 2, and John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever." At $15 to $45, ticket sales generated more than $43,000, most of which goes directly into the North Arkansas Symphony coffers. The arts center will take 10 percent for its operating expenses plus another $16,000 owed by the symphony.

At a post-concert reception for donors and musicians that featured sweets and champagne, North Arkansas Symphony board of directors chairman Karen Kapella announced the kickoff of the "Fresh Start" capital campaign for the hometown symphony.

Dick Trammel, so-called "special advocate" for the campaign, drew on the spirit of Sam Walton (an entrepreneur with legendary optimism in tough economic times) and encouraged donors by saying, "Let me tell you, we need our symphony. Let's help them come back." The kickoff was accompanied by the good news that, with the help of a state grant, the symphony recently hired a part-time executive director, Linda Wagner.

"It's such an energy boost," she said of the evening's success. "It reminds people of the magnificence of live symphony music," Wagner said.

Posted by Tim Smith at 4:30 PM | | Comments (0)

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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