Symphony of the Mountains Music Director Cornelia Laemmli Orth, right, announced earlier this week that the orchestra has received a $100,000 donation from Johnson City resident James C. Martin, made in memory of his late wife, Mary B. Martin.
At a time when orchestras across the country are filing for bankruptcy, the Symphony of the Mountains’ 65th anniversary season is off to a strong fiscal start.
Music Director Cornelia Laemmli Orth announced earlier this week that the orchestra has received a $100,000 donation from Johnson City resident James C. Martin, made in memory of his late wife, Mary B. Martin.
“I like music, for one thing, and I like for children to appreciate music on the way up,” said Martin, whose financial support has also benefited the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University and the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough. “Arts funding has been cut severely in school systems locally and nationally. Symphonies are failing financially, and I’m trying in a small way to keep classical music going.”
Martin has challenged other area residents and businesses to match his gift.
“Two is better than one, three is better than one, four is better than one. It has a tremendous multiplier effect,” he said. “Corporate profits, believe it or not, are almost at a maximum right now. They’re hoarding the money in a sense because of the current investment environment. They’re holding it back, and I think they should be ripe for divesting part of it for charitable things and for things that will support the arts.”
Martin’s donation will be used in part to support the symphony’s Mary B. Martin Family and School concerts Oct. 2 and 3 at Grundy High School in Grundy, Va., and the Mary B. Martin Blast of Brass concert slated for Jan. 22 at First Presbyterian Church in Bristol, Tenn.
“Our family concerts are a big, big deal for us,” Orth said. “We first perform a concert open to the public on Sunday afternoon, then two performances Monday morning for school kids to be bussed in. We have an average of about 2,000 kids who come to these concerts. The concerts are designed in close collaboration with the schools so that we can help them meet their goals. We are sending our teachers guides, we are going to visit the schools prior to these concerts. ... Prior to the concerts we have instrument building workshops where the kids are doing little instruments that they can use during the concert and afterwards, a petting zoo where they get to try out all the different instruments with the help of our musicians.
“This year’s concert is dedicated to Mary. We are going to tell her life story through music, hoping that her story can be an inspiration to all of these kids, showing that a person who comes from a poor little farm somewhere in the middle of nowhere, through hard work, will power, optimism and a we-can-do-this attitude can become a very well respected person of our whole region. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to share this story with the kids.”
Martin’s gift couldn’t have come at a better time. Although Symphony of the Mountains finished last season with a balanced budget, other orchestras aren’t so fortunate.
“Orchestras of all sizes are closing their doors. Orchestras even the size of Philadelphia’s are filing for bankruptcy,” Orth said. “Experts of the field predict that every third orchestra in the USA will have closed their doors within two years.
“Arts programs are the first ones to be eliminated when there are budget cuts. Why is that? It’s a proven fact that art and music enriches the quality of our lives. There are studies that show that people, kids and adults, who are exposed to music have a much better learning curve and also remember the things they have learned for much longer. Symphony of the Mountains, thanks to very careful handling of our budget and thanks to the generosity of all people of our region, is happy that we closed our books with a balanced budget last season. Please help Symphony of the Mountains by matching Jim Martin’s gift to keep us healthy, to keep our sapphire sparkle and to bring joy and happiness to people of our region.”
SOTM will kick off its sapphire season at 8 p.m., Aug. 20 at the Toy F. Reid Employee Center in Kingsport with “Celebrate the Seasons,” a concert featuring musical gems such as Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and Schumann’s “Symphony no. 1, Spring.” Haerim Lee, winner of the symphony’s Elizabeth Harper Vaughn Concert Competition, will be the evening’s featured soloist.
In November, SOTM and Barter Theatre will collaborate for the first time on two performances of the popular musical “Cabaret,” capping the show’s run on Barter’s main stage in Abingdon. The concerts, featuring the Barter cast with musical accompaniment by the full symphony orchestra, will be held at 8 p.m., Nov. 11 and 12 at the Toy F. Reid Employee Center in Kingsport.
Other highlights of the 2011-2012 season include the annual Wellmont Holiday Concert, featuring Voices of the Mountains and the Mountain Empire Children’s Choral Academy, on Dec. 3 and the world premiere of Tennessee composer Mark Harrell’s “Concerto for Euphonium” during the symphony’s May 5 concert in Kingsport.
“Symphony of the Mountains is not just about high-quality performances,” Orth added. “We have a lot of outreach and educational activities, too. For example, we have two youth orchestras. A total of 200 kids from all over the region are playing in these orchestras. We have a program at the YWCA in Bristol for at-risk kids where we provide free music classes for these students on a weekly basis. It enriches their lives, it gives them something to hold on. Musicians of the orchestra, myself are in the schools, teaching classes, working with choirs, working with orchestras, telling them about music of upcoming performances on a regular basis. We have master classes for young musicians, we have a competition for young soloists. I am teaching classes for adults here in Kingsport and up in Abingdon. We do pre-concert chats to introduce the music of the concert and last but not least we have a free student ticket program where every student can show his or her ID at the door and they get a free ticket.”
Martin said his wife would have been pleased to support such a worthy organization.
“It would have been right down her alley, so to speak,” he said.
To make a donation, purchase tickets to any of this season’s shows or for more information, call the symphony office at (423) 392-8423 or visit the web site at symphonyofthemountains.org.