News & Updates

News Release: Next Movement: An Idea Forum

Posted by on Aug 4th, 2020 in News & Updates | 0 comments

The COVID-19 pandemic forced music educating, music performingmusic presenting organizations to a temporary standstill, impacting an unprecedented number of people. The Presser Foundation and American Composers Forum, Philadelphia Chapter co-hosted five Idea Forums and invited colleagues to share thoughts about resilience, creativity, and programming during pandemic.

LINKS TO RECORDED SESSIONS ARE BELOW.

August 12, 2020 session featured representatives from Ars Nova Workshop and Lyric Fest. 

Please click the link below to view the recording via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=720795375152626

Ars Nova Workshop took stock of their assets – themselves, their community and surroundings (Woodlands cemetery in their neighborhood) as they rethought their purpose and content.   The organization pivoted using the beautiful, safe and iconic space as the center of context rich activities (like outside yoga to live music) and aimed to record, present, document and disseminate their performances quickly.  

Lyric Fest used the opportunity to learn new skills in technology and take advantage of a broader reach they didn’t have prior to the pandemic.  Their storytelling through song – Artsong was enhanced with creative visuals that resulted in short song movies which could be recorded and presented at watch parties.

August 13, 2020 session featured representatives from Play On Philly! and Settlement Music School

Please click the link below to view the recording via Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=521953401906582

Play On Philly! was quick to refocus from replication to reimagination in their role of delivering music education and programming that was once centered around one-to-one intense daily instruction.  They included staff, teachers and families in information gathering on needs – instrument tuning, technology, commitment to practice time. Out of these discussions, POP Out of the Box and Virtual Summer emerged. Each 2-month long program provided imaginative, collaborative curriculum, with all stakeholders’ input considered in order to meet the needs of their families and community.  

Settlement Music School approached the pandemic with a focus on partnerships in a time of change by making informed and sensitive decisions. They used values-based responses with a focus on continual learning and a long-term approach to innovation (50/30/20 model). Their priority has been their staff, students and families, with a focus on equity and access.  Prior to the March 13th closure, a plan to go online was in the works and they were able to fairly easily mobilize staff of 170, create 20-person tech team, pick Skype for business for staff and families as a platform in a matter of days.  Communicate and often was their basic tenet and they were on an evolution to revolution.  Minimizing financial and technology barriers for families, as well as instrument needs (help from Jacobs Music), communicating and engaging with partners and colleagues was key.  Finding allies and resources (webinars and FB groups) who are also invested in the cause were some silver linings.   Collaboration has been essential and creativeness and responsiveness embedded in all they do.

August 14, 2020 session featured representatives from Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia and OperaDelaware

Please click the link below to view the recording via Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=521953401906582

Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia 147th season, 112-person symphonic chorus with typical season of 3-4 concerts and 1-2 contracted performances had to pivot and consider when they could sing in person again.   Using core values like taking risks, respecting audiences, and powerful communal experiences, they developed 5 goals for the season.  With those in mind, MCC developed a season for in-person and if not.  The virtual season will include 3 virtual chorus projects, with some new commissions, 4 Big Sings, 5 Dialogues with Dominic discussions with composers as well as some member only programs like vocal check ins online, sing-a-longs and Mendel U education with deep dives into works.  If a vaccine is available and they are able to pivot back to in-person, they will be ready.  For now, the season’s goal is for community connection, building and engagement.  

OperaDelaware was heading into their 75th anniversary season and 2 weeks shy of hosting the start of their festival. There was much emotion after a successful previous and validation putting Wilmington on the map for opera in the region.  A simple act helped establish a toe hold back in the arts world and gave them hope.  One challenging task of sending an archival video led to thinking in terms of “what could we do” instead of “what we could not.”  Curbside pick-up of festival t-shirts with singing in the parking lot, led to Drive Through Arias that gave the artists purpose.  Alfresco Arias arose attracting new patrons allowing them to use using their outside space safely. They brought opera to the medical community at local hospitals and retirement facilities with the GrubHub of Opera – Pop-Up Opera – which also brought joy and hope to so many who have not been able to experience the art in some time.  All of this was a source of purpose and joy for those involved and the payoff off of the efforts was worth every ounce of sweat.  They hope to continue into the fall.   

August 19, 2020 session featured representatives from PYO Music Institute  and Wilmington Children’s Chorus

Please click the link below to view the recording via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/acfphiladelphia/videos/743985196444939/

PYO Music Institute took on the daunting task of delivering music education virtually with no existing platform prior to the pandemic.  They found a lot of positives during times of struggle – small Zoom classes, teaching artists communicating more with students and families, and the creation of a technology hotline and how-to videos. Technology donations were received to help students. Master classes were presented on Zoom and access was given to alumni.  All of their efforts culminated in a 90-minute online Festival celebrating and properly closing the season. 

Wilmington Children’s Chorus is the only tuition free children’s chorus in the nation and has a mission to empower young people through their values of access, excellence, diversity and inclusion.  They foster these values, in their musical family, in all they do.  During the pandemic, they focused time on gathering research for safer group singing in order to keep their “family” safe.  Masking, distance, time limits, ventilation and hygiene all working together is best practice, but no “one size fits all” solution.  With safety in mind, but never a 0% chance of contracting COVID 19, they planned to move through readiness stages of prerecorded, “live” virtual, hybrid and in-person singing.  They hosted discussion forums along the way to understand each stage and the impact on programs.

August 21, 2020 session featured representatives from Tempesta di Mare and The Philadelphia Orchestra

Please click the link below to view the recording via Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/acfphiladelphia/videos/651090152168417/

Tempesta di Mare walked away from a trip of performances in Germany in early March and had to scramble to put together a 2020-21 Season with no virtual programming experience.  Since they did have a great video of their rehearsal before their trip, the first project was a Watch Party.  Since they were unhappy with the sound quality of the recording, they researched and found Vimeo.  They had a large amount of content that was on brand and that they wanted to share.  They realized virtual delivery was a wonderful connector, that broadened their reach and built on from their core audience. They created the Tempesta Talks series with archived material to bring people inside the music and process for active listening.  There is still much learning to be had, but results and feedback have been positive.  

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s  last in-person concert was recorded on March 12th and they have been on a journey to define the future as society is being reshaped.  They examined their priorities as an organization and their financial circumstances and realized the incredible force to keep moving forward and the power of working together.  It is from this place that The Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra was born.  Watch, listen and learn were the themes of their creative new programs.  LEARN reaches thousands of young musicians with online instruction.  Hear NOW at home gala provided the healing power of music delivered to hospitals for patients and caregivers. Hear TOGETHER provides a monthly discussion on racial inequality. IDEAS – The Philadelphia Way – is their data driven process for moving ahead with a plan and commitment to confronting crisis.  They launched Our World Now for the 2020-21 Season and the Digital Stage as a beacon to the future.  Taking it a few months at a time, with input from the medical community, the Orchestra is adjusting as needed to have most impact.  

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Over $1.3 Million in a Special Round of General Operating and Capital Support Grants to Music Organizations

Posted by on Apr 29th, 2020 in News & Updates | 0 comments

April 29, 2020 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on the greater Philadelphia area’s rich ecosystem of music performance, education, and community engagement, The Presser Foundation announces a special and additional round of general operating grants to 85 music organizations, whichinclude current fiscal year grant recipients funded by the Foundation’s Advancement of Music and Special Projects programs. There is no application, there are no restrictions on use of funds beyond applicable guidelines, and the reporting requirements will be minimal.

The additional grants total $521,250 and will be paid immediately to help these organizations weather the current COVID-19 crisis, which has forced so many music organizations to curtail operations, cancelling performances and other activities. Individual grants range from $750 to $30,000. The average size is just over $6,100. These additional amounts supplement general operating grants awarded this year totaling $1,042,500.

The Presser Foundation is also pleased to announce the selection of grantees for capital projects totaling $795,000, including $545,000 in new commitments and $250,000 satisfying previous commitments, through its Capital Support program. The grant recipients are music presenting, music performing and music education organizations in the greater Philadelphia area and those which enjoy a legacy relationship with the Foundation. 

Jeffrey Cornelius, President of The Presser Foundation, commented on these grants: “The Presser Foundation saw an opportunity to extend potentially life-saving support to a broad swath of music organizations, without any re-application. We want our music organizations to come roaring back when it is safe to do so, because so many musicians and enthusiasts depend on them. Our Trustees pledge to serve as responsible stewards advancing the art of music and continuing the legacy of Theodore Presser with passion, integrity and respect. It is in this way that we hope to inspire others to support the music to the extent they are able to do so. We affirm the ways these organizations and this ecosystem have enriched our lives and recognize that they are aching to continue their important work.” 

2019-20 Special Round of General Operating Support Grantees (in alphabetical order)

Academy of Vocal Arts

Allentown Symphony Association

Anna Crusis Women’s Choir

Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

Ars Nova Workshop

Art Sphere, Inc.

Artistas y Musicos Latino Americanos (AMLA)

ArtistYear

Astral Artists, Inc.

Bay Atlantic Symphony, Inc.

Berks Youth Chorus

Bowerbird

Bucks County Choral Society

Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey

Chamber Music Society of Bethlehem

Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia

Chester Children’s Chorus

Choir School of Delaware

Choral Arts Philadelphia

CityFest, Inc./Wilmington Children’s Chorus

Commonwealth Youthchoirs

Community Conservatory

Community Music School Lehigh Valley

Community Music School of Collegeville

Community Youth Orchestra of Bucks County

Darlington Arts Center

Delaware County Youth Orchestra

Delaware Symphony Orchestra

Dolce Suono Ensemble

Esperanza

Friends of the Wanamaker Organ

Garden State Philharmonic Orchestra

Harrisburg Symphony Association

Kimmel Center, Inc.

Lancaster Symphony Orchestra

LiveConnections

(continued)

Lyra Society

Lyric Fest

Mamadele Foundation

Market Square Concerts

Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia

Moravian College

Music at Gretna, Inc.

Music for Everyone

Musicopia

Network for New Music

OperaDelaware

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 Sinfonia Association

Philadelphia Youth Orchestra

Piffaro, The Renaissance Band

Play On, Philly! (POP)

Princeton Symphony Orchestra

PRISM Quartet, Inc.

Project 440

Reading Symphony Orchestra

Riverside Symphonia

Settlement Music School

Singing City

State Theatre Regional Arts Center At New Brunswick Inc

Susquehanna Chorale

Symphony in C

Tempesta di Mare, Inc.

Temple University Music Preparatory Division

The Allentown Band

The Bach Choir of Bethlehem

The Crossing

The Dryden Ensemble

The Friends of Chamber Music of Reading, Inc.

The Georgia E. Gregory Interdenominational School of Music

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts

The Music School of Delaware

The Philadelphia Orchestra

The Princeton Festival

Trenton Children’s Chorus, Inc.

Trenton Music Makers

Tri-County Concerts Association, Inc.

Wilmington Concert Opera

WRTI 90.1FM

Variant 6

2019-20 Capital Support Grantees (in alphabetical order)

Haverford College

Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation

Kimmel Center, Inc., Academy of Music*

Lafayette College

Lebanon Valley College

Rider University – Westminster Choir College

Swarthmore College

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts*

University of the Arts*

*Previous Multi-Year Grantee

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Over $1 Million in Advancement of Music Grants

Posted by on Feb 28th, 2020 in News & Updates | 0 comments

The Presser Foundation Announces Over $1 Million in Advancement of Music Grants

The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of seventy-three new multi- and single-year grantees for Advancement of Music. These grants, totaling $823,500 are in addition to $205,000 in existing multi-year grants to seven outstanding music organizations.  Advancement of Music provides general operating support to music presenting, music performing and music education organizations in the Greater Philadelphia Area.

William B. McLaughlin, III, Chair of the Advancement of Music Committee, commented, “For the first time in an over one hundred-year history, The Presser Foundation has crossed the threshold of one million dollars in general operating support this fiscal year.  It is an honor to provide the largest round of critical funding totaling $1,028,500 to so many musical organizations in and around Philadelphia.  As our recently adopted operating values articulate – Music is our purpose. We are committed to supporting the future of music and its excellence.”

2019-20 Advancement of Music Grantees (in alphabetical order)

Academy of Vocal Arts
Allentown Symphony Association
Anna Crusis Women’s Choir
Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Ars Nova Workshop
Artistas y Musicos Latino Americanos (AMLA)
Astral Artists, Inc.
ArtistYear
Bay Atlantic Symphony, Inc.
Berks Youth Chorus
Bowerbird
Bucks County Choral Society
Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey
Chamber Music Society of Bethlehem
Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia
Chester Children’s Chorus
Choir School of Delaware
Choral Arts Philadelphia
CityFest, Inc./Wilmington Children’s Chorus
Commonwealth Youthchoirs
Community Conservatory
Community Music School Lehigh Valley
Community Music School of Collegeville
Community Youth Orchestra of Bucks County
Darlington Arts Center
Delaware County Youth Orchestra
Delaware Symphony Orchestra
Dolce Suono Ensemble
Esperanza
Friends of the Wanamaker Organ
Garden State Philharmonic Orchestra
Harrisburg Symphony Association
Kimmel Center, Inc.
Lancaster Symphony Orchestra
LiveConnections
Lyra Society
Lyric Fest
Market Square Concerts
Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia
Moravian College
Music at Gretna, Inc.
Music for Everyone
Musicopia
Network for New Music
Opera Philadelphia
OperaDelaware
Orchestra 2001
Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale
Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts
Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus
Philadelphia Sinfonia Association
Philadelphia Youth Orchestra
Piffaro, The Renaissance Band
Play On, Philly! (POP)
Princeton Symphony Orchestra
PRISM Quartet, Inc.
Project 440
Reading Symphony Orchestra
Riverside Symphonia
Settlement Music School
Singing City
State Theatre Regional Arts Center At New Brunswick Inc
Susquehanna Chorale
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 Georgia E. Gregory Interdenominational School of Music
The Mann Center for the Performing Arts 
The Music School of Delaware
The Philadelphia Orchestra 
The Princeton Festival 
Trenton Children’s Chorus, Inc.
Trenton Music Makers
Tri-County Concerts Association, Inc.
WRTI90.1FM

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.  More information on the Foundation’s grant making activity can be found on its website www.presserfoundation.org.

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Special Projects Grants

Posted by on Jan 7th, 2020 in News & Updates | 0 comments

December 23, 2019 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection and funding of fourteen new Special Projects from music organizations in the greater Philadelphia area. These grants, totaling $131,000, are in addition to a previous commitment of $20,000 to Settlement Music School on behalf of long-time and retiring Trustees. Peter Burwasser, Chair of the Special Projects Committee, commented “The Presser Foundation is pleased to support, under revised grant guidelines, special project grants including organization milestones, general operating support for new organizations to the Foundation, pilot programs and first-time artistic collaborations. Music curriculum development, anniversary performances, and unique partnerships comprise the list of projects supported.”

Special Project Grants: (in alphabetical order)

Allentown Symphony Association

Art Sphere, Inc.

Chester Children’s Chorus

Choir School of Delaware

Intercultural Journeys 

Mamadele Foundation

Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia

Philadelphia Chamber Music Society

Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus

The Dryden Ensemble

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts

Wilmington Concert Opera

Symphony in C

Variant 6

Remembering Michael Stairs

Posted by on Jul 3rd, 2019 in News & Updates | 0 comments

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.

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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.
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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 Capital Support Grants

Posted by on Apr 18th, 2019 in News & Updates | 0 comments

April 18, 2019 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of grantees for Capital Support.  These grants, totaling $761,185 this fiscal year, include $445,000 in new commitments and $316,185 satisfying previous commitments.  These grants are designated for capital projects of music presenting, music performing and music education organizations in the Greater Philadelphia Area. Capital projects typically include the construction of new facilities and the renovation or expansion of existing facilities.

Corey R. Smith, Chair of the Capital Support Committee,commented on these grants, “A community music school, two undergraduate schools of music, and a historic regional arts center comprise this year’s list of new grantees for Capital Support. Reflecting the spectrum of music organizations supported by The Presser Foundation, we congratulate them and are pleased to be associated with capital projects of such significance and impact.” 

2018-19 Capital Support Grantees (in alphabetical order)

Darlington Arts Center

Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation*

Kimmel Center, Inc., Academy of Music*

OperaDelaware*

Rowan University Foundation

State Theatre Regional Arts Center at New Brunswick, Inc.

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts*

University of the Arts

*Previous Multi-Year Grantee

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Advancement of Music Grants

Posted by on Mar 1st, 2019 in News & Updates | 0 comments

March 1, 2019 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of sixty-nine multi- and single year grantees for Advancement of Music. These grants, totaling $865,500, provide general operating support to music presenting, music performing and music education organizations in the Greater Philadelphia Area.

William B. McLaughlin, III, Chair of the Advancement of Music Committee, commented, “It is an honor to provide the largest round of critical operating support grants to so many musical organizations in and around Philadelphia.  The Presser Foundation is proud to help sustain and nurture these organizations that are essential to the communities and audiences they serve.”

 

2018-19 Advancement of Music Grantees (in alphabetical order)

 

Academy of Vocal Arts

Allentown Symphony Association

Anna Crusis Women’s Choir

Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

Ars Nova Workshop

ArtistYear

Artistas y Musicos Latino Americanos

Astral Artists, Inc.

Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra

Bowerbird

Bucks County Choral Society

Bucks County Symphony Society

Chamber Music Society of Bethlehem

Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia

Chester Children’s Chorus

Choir School of Delaware

Choral Arts Philadelphia

Commonwealth Youthchoirs

Community Conservatory

Community Music School Lehigh Valley

Community Music School of Collegeville

Concert Operetta Theatre

Darlington Arts Center

Delaware County Youth Orchestra

Delaware Symphony Orchestra

Dolce Suono Ensemble

Esperanza

Friends of the Wanamaker Organ

Kimmel Center, Inc.

Lancaster Symphony Orchestra

LiveConnections

Lyra Society

Market Square Concerts

Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia

Music at Gretna, Inc.

Musicopia

Network for New Music

Opera Philadelphia

OperaDelaware

Orchestra 2001

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.

Project 440

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 Georgia E. Gregory Interdenominational School of Music

The Mann Center of the Performing Arts

The Music School of Delaware

The Philadelphia Orchestra

The Princeton Festival

Trenton Children’s Chorus, Inc.

Trenton Community Music School

Tri-County Concerts Association, Inc.

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Special Project Grants

Posted by on Dec 21st, 2018 in News & Updates | 0 comments

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 www.presserfoundation.org.

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.

 

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Capital Support Grants

Posted by on Apr 26th, 2018 in News & Updates | 0 comments

April 26, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of grantees for Capital Support.  These grants, totaling $716,185 this fiscal year including $352,370 in new commitments and $405,000 satisfying previous commitments.  These grants are designated for capital projects of music organizations providing supports a broad range of classical symphonic, chamber, choral and 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, “From among many worthy proposals submitted to The Presser Foundation for this year‘s capital support grants, the Board of Trustees selected the following organizations for funding. These proposals were deemed to be particularly in line with the aims of the founder, Theodore Presser, and promise to provide the type of support he envisioned for musical institutions almost a century ago.  We congratulate these organizations and are pleased to be associated with the fine results they are accomplishing.” 

 2017-18 Capital Support Grantees (in alphabetical order)

Agnes Scott College, Presser Legacy

Community Music School of Collegeville

Curtis Institute of Music

The Grand Opera House

Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation*

Kimmel Center, Inc., Academy of Music*

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts*

The Music School of Delaware

Ohio Wesleyan University, Presser Legacy*

OperaDelaware

Temple University, Boyer College of Music and Dance*

University of Delaware*

*Previous Multi-Year Grantee

Thoughts on Bob Capanna’s Remembrance

Posted by on Mar 12th, 2018 in News & Updates | 0 comments

What really matters in the arts? Bob Capanna remembrance served as a reminder

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Arts leaders at a memorial concert for Settlement Music School’s Bob Capanna (above) celebrated his life and achievements.

It’s not every day that the arts community gets together to talk about a set of principles. But if you listened between the lines last Sunday at the Perelman Theater, that’s what was happening at the memorial for Robert Capanna.

The event shouldn’t have been happening at all, said one speaker. But happening it was: a remembrance of Capanna, the composer who stepped down as head of the Settlement Music School at the end of 2009 after 27 years. Capanna died in January at age 65 – too soon by any clock, but tragically early considering he had consolidated a lifetime of knowledge and experience in music, administration, and investment management into a singular set of strengths.

Given all this, plus the trust and credibility he engendered from donors, he should be running the Philadelphia Orchestra right about now. Maybe his spirit will animate that search for a new president with some imagination.

It seems an apt time to weave together a few of the threads that made Capanna who he was — the Bobness of Bob, if you will. Capanna embodied a set of high ideals that arts institutions might aim for as the sector struggles with questions of identity versus survival, art versus entertainment, flavor-of-the-month programming ideas to please funders versus core mission, and the endless strain of working harder for an ever-smaller slice of the attention pie.

Clarifying Sunday’s comments down to a core philosophy, you might conclude that the arts community doesn’t need more foundations developing position papers on cultural policy or consultants lording that policy over arts groups. What it needs is a little more time connecting with the soul of art.

A composer himself — Capanna once called his music “wildly unpopular and difficult” — the South Philadelphian had a way of cutting right to the heart of the matter. Several speakers Sunday referenced it, sometimes humorously.

When he came across something with which he disagreed, he called it “cute,” said Matthew Levy, executive and co-artistic director of the Prism Quartet. That decoding surely had many of us shifting in our seats uncomfortably, trying to recall whether Capanna ever applied the word to any idea we floated in his presence.

Big truths in small morsels

He rendered strong opinions generously, but what was remarkable was how much truth he could pack into one concise, carefully aimed volley.

Capanna would often host pre-concert talks for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and Philip Maneval, PCMS’s executive director, recalled one memorable audience back-and-forth that went like this:

“Why can’t living composers write music like Brahms?” one listener asked, to which Bob replied, “They don’t need to, Brahms already did!”

In that one sentence, without condescension or pretentiousness, Capanna managed an entire explanation of why we need contemporary composers.

Audience member: “How have recordings changed the way that people perform today?”

Capanna: “Well, they’ve made musicians far too careful.”

What truth. Through natural selection, many of the instrumentalists and conductors we hear today are technically superior and musically cold — or at least, putting too much emphasis on the former and not enough on the latter.

“He answered each question intelligently, patiently, and with a smile. Invariably, he would educate and win over everyone,” said Maneval.

Music for the prodigies and the rest of us

Sunday’s memorial, which included performances of Capanna’s own compositions, was a chance for colleagues to thank him. Among them was Katharine Sokoloff, retired fund-raiser for Settlement Music School, who said that Capanna showed her that “music doesn’t only belong to prodigies and that Settlement faculty is the school’s heart and soul.”

Again, so much truth, so few words.

The arts world remains terribly taken with prodigies. Their unlikely nature makes for admittedly compelling stories. But the idea that prodigies are more deserving of opportunity and attention is a pernicious notion. Every artist develops and matures at a different point and rate. There are early bloomers who fade, and latecomers who, mysteriously one day, arrive fully formed.

Let’s also not forget that students not destined to become professional should get training, too. They are tomorrow’s ticket buyers, donors, and board members. Capanna never forgot that music was for everyone.

And, as Capanna intimated, for all of the larding of the upper administration at many an arts organization (admittedly necessary in the modern age), the core strength of a school is at the point of contact between student and teacher, just as the of an orchestra or theater troupe begins and ends with who’s on stage.

What ‘real art’ requires

I don’t think anyone specifically referenced Capanna’s thoughts on today’s confusion over what qualifies as art and what as entertainment, but he once explained it to me this way: Experiencing art takes work, he said. “That’s what separates real art from entertainment. Real art requires an effort on the part of the listener and viewer. That doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining; it’s richer.”

And in entertainment, his taste was superb. Not long ago we told him we were binge-watching the Supergirl series on Netflix with our daughter. “Oh, that’s a good show,” he shot back.

If you’re wondering how Capanna’s words found action in his lifetime, just look at his deeds at Settlement Music School. Philadelphia’s arts groups as a whole finally seem serious about social mission and the democratization of the arts. But Capanna long ago greatly expanded the school’s reach to younger, older, and more diverse students, and set about finding them in more parts of the region.

Surely, Capanna cannot have been uniquely wise or capable. There happens to be a lot of talent in town today, and many arts leaders are coming up with creative ideas for a changing world. David Devan at Opera Philadelphia and Catherine Cahill at the Mann often impress with their ability to create new art from scant resources.

Capanna himself saw evolution as being healthy. When he retired from Settlement, he said: “I think inevitably the institution needs to change and develop, and after 30 years you can’t continue to do that. It’s the way life is. Nothing is forever. ”

True enough. But Capanna often functioned as a kind of conscience for the city, a one-man reality check against fad masquerading as innovation, and with an abiding belief in the common good and achieving it through an institution.

Sunday’s recollections got to the core of what matters most in art, and Capanna always knew how to get there without selling out. We are not likely to see all that again in one package anytime soon.

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