The Rome Symphony Orchestra has been presenting concerts in Rome since 1921. But the organization was hit heavily by the recent recession and is in danger of having to cancel a number of concerts and community programs unless they receive additional support.
Barbara Beninato, RSO president, said the symphony consistently strives to maintain funds a year in advance of any given season. “In the 2008 recession,” she said, “we lost $180,000 in investments, which was a huge financial blow. We usually present five or six performances each year to sustain a significant presence in the Rome/Floyd County community. If we are unable to find additional financial resources for the 2013-14 season, we may be forced to perform only two concerts. That would be a serious loss both for the musicians and for the community at large, because we contribute to the quality of life here in a number of ways.”
According to symphony Executive Director Debra Cook, the organization provides not only a wealth of beautiful music for area residents, but offers something more intangible to the community as well.
“The symphony adds to the culture of this community,” Cook said. “It’s a form of entertainment but it’s so much more than that. It adds to the appeal of Rome for residents and visitors alike.”
Cook said the symphony’s storied history and its commitment to provide quality music and programming make it something Rome residents can be proud to call their own.
But with concerts costing $15,000 to $17,000 to produce, that quality could be in jeopardy. A drop in ticket sales and donations have caused administrators to look at ways to stay in operation with a critical decrease in budget.
Beninato said the organization has already been proactively cutting costs wherever possible. Those include voluntary salary cuts to staff, selecting repertoire that requires fewer musicians, decreases in printing and mailing, as well as presenting fewer performances and fewer rehearsals.
Music Director and conductor Richard Prior said the orchestra is an outward and visible sign of the vitality and vision of the community.
“The RSO has one of the most outstanding histories of any such orchestra in the country,” he said. “Artistically, the quality of the performances has been on a continual upward trajectory and the involvement and service within the community in terms of outreach has only broadened. I feel unreservedly that the community has the resources, spirit, vision and responsibility to preserve this institution for future generations of Romans and residents of the region. The time for action is now.”
One way in which the community can support the symphony is simply to attend concerts and fundraisers. With this season’s remaining concerts taking place Feb. 23, April 27, June 8 and July 4, the public has the opportunity to take in a variety of different concert types featuring some of the world’s most famous musical pieces performed by talented professionals.
On Feb. 23, the symphony will present its Symphony of Chocolate concert and fundraiser. The concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. at the DeSoto Theatre on Broad Street and will feature music from the film “Chocolat.” The program includes delightful and hilarious work for chamber ensemble and mezzo-soprano based on the character of Julia Childs. There will be a chocolate and champagne reception after.
On Feb. 24 from 2-4 p.m., the Symphony of Chocolate fundraiser takes place at the Forrest Place Ballrooms on Broad Street. Tickets are $35.
Another way to contribute to the symphony is through corporate and individual donations. Checks can be mailed to Rome Symphony Orchestra, P.O. Box 533, Rome, Ga., 30162. Or visit online at romesymphony.org for additional information. Donations are tax deductible.
But board members and symphony administrators aren’t just sitting back and waiting for money to come pouring in. They know that times are tough for many other Rome organizations and realize there are other causes with immediate needs.
“We want to give people something back for their money,” said Randy Quick, RSO campaign chair. “We want to stress the importance of the arts for every aspect of the community and make people feel an ownership of this organization that is such a historic part of Rome and of the South.”
Quick said when the symphony begins its annual fundraising campaign, he hopes Rome residents and businesses will see the value in supporting the symphony.
And there are always positions available for volunteers.
“We can’t let the music die, we just can’t,” Cook said, citing a goal of $150,000 just to afford all the concerts for the 2013-2014 season. “The symphony will not go away, not on my watch. But we need the community’s help. The quality of the music and its impact on the community will suffer if we don’t meet our financial goals for this season. But I have faith that people will realize what a historic and beautiful part of the community the symphony is. It’s something to be proud of. It’s something that many other cities in the South don’t have. And it’s ours.”