BY KATE WARD Northwest Arkansas Times
The North Arkansas Symphony has been forced to call off its last concert of the season because of a shortage of money.
The “Pictures” event, originally scheduled for April 12, will be performed at a future date to be announced.
“We need money,” said Jeannine Wagar, music director/conductor to the North Arkansas Symphony. “We have a fantastic board, orchestra, staff and musicians, but our fundraising campaign didn’t reach the goals we needed. We need more sponsorship and to do that, we’ll probably have to restructure and reassess the direction we’re going.”
The North Arkansas Symphony is a non-profit organization founded in 1954 with financial and program support from the University of Arkansas. Over the years, the program has increased its size and services to reflect the region’s rapidly increasing population and diversity. Symphony performances now serve a region with a population base of about 400,000.
“This season was probably the best season we’ve ever had artistically,” she said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to raise enough money to cover the cost of a small symphony orchestra. I think it’s pathetic. It’s definitely a blow to the arts.”
Wagar said she was unsure why the symphony’s sponsorships are down.
“All I know is that every non-profit in the area is really struggling. In Europe and Latin America, you have solid government funding,” she said. “In the U.S., you have to rely on corporate or individual donations and grants. All we need is a really solid plan for raising the money and funds.”
Wagar said the North Arkansas Symphony Orches- tra Board will commence a period of assessment to address the group’s role in the Northwest Arkansas community as it exists today.
“The North Arkansas Symphony is extremely important to the community,” she said. “It adds to the quality of life and gives the musicians income to bring in talent from the outside. The bottom line is, we’re not going away.”
As part of the organization’s community outreach, the North Arkansas Symphony Orchestra will focus on education by making numerous appearances in area schools and other small venues. The symphony’s educational outreach program reaches a 50-miles radius to include 25 towns in Benton, Boone, Carroll, Johnson, Madison and Washington Counties, as well as Southeast Missouri and Oklahoma.
“We’ll be making a heavy presence in the schools,” Wagar said. “It’s something we needed to be doing all along. You have to expose kids to the arts.”
On Thursday, the North Arkansas Symphony performed an educational concert featuring its string quartet at Bellview Elementary School in Rogers. The performance was made possible through a donation from the Northside Rotary Club in Fayetteville.
“Those kids were riveted,” Wagar said. “They definitely took something away from it.”
The string quartet performed for third-, fourthand fifth-graders. In addition to several types of music, the presentation included explanations about the type music, followed by a question-andanswer session.
Once funding is secured, Wagar said she believes the symphony will emerge as “a strong, professional orchestra with significant community support and a clear strategy for the future.”
Wagar added that the funding deficit didn’t come as a complete surprise.
“We’ve been staving it off all year and just kept hoping and hoping,” she said. “Our budget is $600,000 a year. What a lot of people don’t understand, is that ticket sales are just a small portion of that. You have to pay for the musicians, venue, transportation, marketing and overhead costs. When you add everything up, it has to be funded two to one from the community.”
Wagar emphasized that the North Arkansas Symphony doesn’t target any one type of audience demographic.
“Music is for the people,” she said. “A symphony orchestra can do anything. We don’t just play classical music. We also play jazz, pop, rock — just about anything. If you apply the rule of economics, the scarcity is in live performances. Listening to it on an iPod isn’t nearly the same.”
The North Arkansas Symphony Orchestra office will remain open as the group continues to work in the education community.
During that time, Wager said she’s urging area residents and businesses to consider making a donation, even if its small.
“We’ll take quarters,” she said. “We need any and everything we can get.”
For more information on school or ensemble performances, or becoming a symphony sponsor, call (479) 521-4166 or visit: www. nasymphony.org.
Publication:Northwest Arkansas Times; Date:Mar 29, 2008
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