It was the opening of The Philadelphia Orchestra's 2003-04 season, Christoph Eschenbach's first as music director, and the Orchestra had a remarkable announcement to make.
Armed with a transformational gift of $50 million from the Annenberg Foundation, The Philadelphia Orchestra Association was embarking on a fund-raising campaign that would vitalize its initiatives and ensure a bright future by bringing the endowment to $200 million. This fall the Orchestra has announced the successful conclusion of A Sound, A City, A Civilization: The Campaign for The Philadelphia Orchestra, as of the end of the fiscal year on August 31, 2008.
Thanks to the generosity of more than 1,200 donors, the Campaign has surpassed its goal of $125 million to support the Orchestra's mission of providing the finest symphonic music to the widest possible audiences worldwide. More than 27% of this total has come from the Orchestra's Board, with the remainder comprising gifts at every level from loyal and generous Orchestra lovers, who are committed to preserving The Philadelphia Orchestra and its lustrous sound for the next generation.
"This is a significant and a wonderful achievement," said former Orchestra Board Chairman Peter Benoliel, who headed up the endowment campaign.
As far back as the early 1990s, it was clear to members of the Board, particularly then-Chairman Benoliel, that the organization needed a dramatically larger endowment. At that time, however, substantial fund-raising energies were being invested in the campaign for a new concert hall. More than $100 million was raised for that project and subsequently turned over to the Regional Performing Arts Center, a separate entity created to take over the task of raising the remaining money and building the facility.
The Orchestra's Centennial Celebration in 2000 made all of Philadelphia proud of its local band, which was recognized as one of the city's greatest cultural assets. New recording projects, a series of Centenary Commissions by top composers, and a Centennial Tour brought continued worldwide recognition for the Orchestra as it entered its second century.
By the time the Orchestra moved into its new home in the Kimmel Center in the fall of 2001, excitement about downtown Philadelphia and about the Orchestra's role in its rebirth was at an all-time high. It was in this context that the Campaign was launched: first conceived as a $75 million effort but quickly pushed forward with the $50 million gift from Leonore Annenberg, given through the foundation set up by her late husband, publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg. It was one of the largest gifts to an American orchestra in history.
Eschenbach's involvement and his relationship with Annenberg were critical to the success of the Campaign. Eschenbach defied conventional wisdom about European conductors not grasping fund-raising, Benoliel said. "He understood what it was to be an American music director."
Walter and Leonore Annenberg had long been staunch supporters of the Orchestra and its longtime former home, the Academy of Music.
But this new gift changed the landscape of Philadelphia philanthropy, and subsequent large gifts helped cement community confidence in the Campaign, including the Neubauer Family Foundation's $10 million two-to-one matching challenge and 16 other gifts of $1 million and more.
Mr. Benoliel gratefully acknowledged the generous support of the community and the vital role played by the many volunteers who had served on the Campaign Committee, especially fellow Campaign leadership including current Orchestra Board Chairman and Campaign Vice Chairman Harold A. Sorgenti; former Board Chairman Richard L. Smoot; and Board members Carole Haas Gravagno and Toni Garrison.
The new funds are already allowing the Orchestra to expand its program offerings in the areas of education, technology, and artistic endeavors. The Campaign has also more than quadrupled the number of endowed musicians' chairs, from 9 to 37. The goal continues to be to endow every single Orchestra chair.
All this generosity is not just about a cultural artifact: It has grown from the belief of individuals in the importance of music, and orchestral music in particular, in the future landscape of American culture. Now, perhaps more than ever before, the community and the world can benefit from the inspiration that The Philadelphia Orchestra provides. And the successful completion of the Orchestra's endowment campaign will enable Philadelphia's musical treasure not only to flourish but to continue as a leader and innovator, as it has throughout its gloried history.