Remembering Michael Stairs

Michael Stairs

Michael Stairs, Trustee 1985-2018

Our beloved Board member and one of the great musical artists and teachers in the field of organ performance, Michael Stairs, passed away on August 11, 2018.

Michael, beyond his artistry as a musician, was a man of sterling character. He exemplified truly exceptional human qualities of modesty and compassion for others.  He brought these qualities and keen insight to his work on behalf of the Foundation.
One of Michael’s final acts on behalf of The Presser Foundation was to designate his special directed grant to the benefit of students at the Curtis Institute.  He gave his time generously and willingly to the work of the Foundation, serving on the Board for thirty-three years, and was an exemplary committee chair, most recently of the Advancement of Music Committee.  We shall all miss him, his wisdom, his gentle manner, and the beauty he brought to so many performances.

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Special Project Grants

December 21, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection and funding of seventeen new Special Projects from music organizations in the greater Philadelphia area. These grants, totaling $321,500, are in addition to other previous Foundation commitments of $27,000 to organizations including LiveConnections and Curtis Institute of Music. Peter Burwasser, Chair of the Special Projects Committee, commented, “The Presser Foundation is honored to support our musical community with our annual Special Projects grants. This year our grantees cross a range of organizations that reflect the wonderful diversity of our region, including commissions of new works, anniversary performances, milestone performances and new projects. We are especially pleased to be able to honor several distinguished musical luminaries, including the late Philadelphia Orchestra organist Michael Stairs, composer and conductor Jan Kryzwicki and long-time arts manager Nancy Newman.”

Special Project Grants: (in alphabetical order)

  • Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
  • Astral Artists, Inc.
  • Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra
  • Chestnut Street Singers
  • Darlington Arts Center
  • Friends of the Wanamaker Organ
  • Lyric Fest
  • Network for New Music
  • Opera Philadelphia
  • OperaDelaware
  • Piffaro, The Renaissance Band
  • Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
  • Philadelphia Youth Orchestra
  • PRISM Quartet, Inc.
  • The Crossing
  • The Georgia E. Gregory Interdenominational School of Music
  • The Mann Center for the Performing Arts

More information on the Foundation’s grant making activity can be found on its website

About The Presser Foundation

The Presser Foundation was established in 1939 under the Deeds of Trust and Will of the late Theodore Presser. It is one of the few private foundations in the United States dedicated solely to music education and music philanthropy. The Presser Foundation supports a broad range of classical symphonic, chamber, choral and vocal music performance and education through general operating and program grants to music organizations; capital grants for music building projects; undergraduate and graduate student awards; and assistance to retired music teachers.  Much of the grant making focus of the Foundation is on organizations and institutions in the 75-mile radius surrounding Center City Philadelphia.


In Memoriam: Robert Capanna, Former President of The Presser Foundation

Robert Capanna

Robert Capanna, Former President of The Presser Foundation

It was with the profoundest sense of loss and sadness that we received news of the passing on January 26, 2018, of our dear friend, colleague, and former President of The Presser Foundation, Robert Capanna.  Known and respected by all as a gifted composer, visionary leader, financial strategist, and as a man of scruples and conviction, his legacy to the art of music, to the City of Philadelphia and the region, to the nation through his leadership of organizations dedicated to advancing the causes of music and education and, specifically, to The Presser Foundation will long be felt by and influence the countless people and organizations he touched.

Bob’s leadership as President of The Presser Foundation for ten years resulted in major strategic planning, thoughtful revision and updating of the Foundation’s approaches to virtually every dimension of its philanthropy, steadfast adherence to the guiding principles established by Theodore Presser himself, and, in sum, exemplary stewardship.

The Presser Foundation Trustees, Committee Members and staff express sincerest condolences to his wife, Cathryn Coate, to his children, and to his extended family and his many colleagues and friends at this time of great loss.

A visitation is set for Wednesday, January 31st from 4:00-6:00pm at the Pennsylvania Burial Co./Baldi Funeral Home, 1327-29 S. Broad Street.  A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Donations in his name may be made to the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, 1528 Walnut Street, Philadelphia 19102; PRISM Quartet, 257 W. Harvey Street Philadelphia 19144; and Philadelphia FIGHT, 1233 Locust Street, Philadelphia 19107.



News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Capital Support Grants

May 2, 2017 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of grantees for Capital Support.  These grants, totaling $647,500 this fiscal year, are designated for capital projects of music organizations providing a broad range of classical symphonic, chamber, choral and/or vocal music. Capital projects include the construction of new facilities and the renovation or expansion of existing facilities.

Dr. Jeffrey Cornelius, Chair of the Capital Support Committee commented on these grants, “Awardees of this year’s Capital Support grants were selected from among applications of considerable merit representing a wide range of educational and presenting organizations.  Building and renovation initiatives approved by the Board were judged to be particularly congruent with founder Theodore Presser’s vision.  Applicants established their potential for significant impact on advancing music education, performance, and philanthropy.  We congratulate these organizations on their vision and their contributions to their respective communities.” 

 2016-17 Capital Support Grantees (in alphabetical order)

Bethany College

Cathedral Choir School of Delaware

The Grand Opera House

Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation

Illinois Wesleyan University, Presser Hall*

Kimmel Center, Inc., Academy of Music*

Lebanon Valley College*

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts

Ohio Wesleyan University, Presser Legacy

Settlement Music School

Stetson University, Presser Hall

Temple University, Boyer College of Music and Dance

University of Delaware

*Previous Multi-Year Grantee

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Advancement of Music Grants

The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of grantees for Advancement of Music. These grants, totaling $700,000, provide general operating support to music presenting, music performing and music education organizations in the Greater Philadelphia Area.

Michael Stairs, Chair of the Advancement of Music Committee, provides comment, “Having received a record number of proposals for consideration, we are pleased to announce the selection of this year’s Advancement of Music grantees.  These high-quality organizations represent the best in the field of orchestral and choral music programming providing both students and audiences with meaningful experiences.  It is an honor to provide critical general operating support to these successful organizations in the Greater Philadelphia Area.” 

 2016-17 Advancement of Music Grantees (in alphabetical order)

Academy of Vocal Arts

Allentown Symphony Association

Ars Nova Workshop

Artistas y Musicos Latino Americanos

Astral Artistic Services, Inc.

Bucks County Choral Society

Bucks County Symphony Society

Cathedral Choir School of Delaware

Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia

Chester Children’s Chorus

Choral Arts Philadelphia

Commonwealth Youth Choirs

Community Conservatory

Community Music School Lehigh Valley

Community Music School of Collegeville

Darlington Arts Center

Delaware County Youth Orchestra

Delaware Symphony Orchestra

Dolce Suono Ensemble

Kimmel Center, Inc.

Lancaster Symphony Orchestra


Lyric Fest

Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia


Network for New Music

Opera Philadelphia


Orchestra 2001

Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale

Philadelphia Chamber Music Society

Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts

Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus

Philadelphia Youth Orchestra

Piffaro, The Renaissance Band

Play On, Philly!

Princeton Symphony Orchestra

PRISM Quartet, Inc.

Reading Symphony Orchestra

Riverside Symphonia

Settlement Music School

Singing City

State Theatre Regional Arts Center at New Brunswick, Inc.

Symphony in C

Tempesta di Mare, Inc.

Temple University Music Preparatory Division

The Allentown Band

The Bach Choir of Bethlehem

The Crossing

The Friends of Chamber Music of Reading, Inc.

The Mann Center of the Performing Arts

The Music School of Delaware

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Trenton Community Music School

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