National Symphony gives boost to struggling Arkansas orchestra
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.