Coda: The Volunteer Orchestra Challenge
The milestone that this 50th Anniversary Season marks raises the question: How can a group of volunteer musicians sustain a tradition like Prometheus Symphony Orchestra for 50 years?
♫ It takes a great Music Director who knows how to challenge, cajole and inspire us. We have been blessed with six of them. Eric Hansen continues to strengthen that tradition, making the experience rewarding so that excellent musicians stay on.
♫ It takes 50 or so dedicated musicians trekking to rehearsal every Monday night, after already putting in a full day, making every effort to master the great composers. Exciting, at times overwhelming, but always worth it. Thirteen of our current players have been with the orchestra for 20 or more years: seven of those for over 30 and two for over 40 years. And we practice, practice, practice!
♫ It takes loyal fans and friends. Our performances draw full houses of appreciative music lovers, some having attended our concerts for many years. We are delighted to welcome new audience members to the fold at every concert.
♫ It takes a constant search for amateur musicians willing and able to conquer the demanding repertoire and to do so for the love of music.
♫ It takes orchestra members putting in lots of time and thought to produce a five-concert season, year after year. We have no management or production staff – the orchestra members do it all.
What Do the Members Do?
Here’s a partial answer:
≈ Create and maintain a classy and informative website.
≈ Produce professional quality season brochures and concert programs.
≈ Publicize concerts with colorful flyers and press releases.
≈ Generate address lists and lick stamps to mail publicity.
≈ Run our Young Artist Concerto Competition with publicity and auditions
≈ Find performance and rehearsal space and negotiate contracts.
≈ Maintain a beneficial relationship with our host, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
≈ Set up rehearsals and concerts: move church pews, tables, chairs and stands
≈ Make homemade baked goodies and coffee for our concert intermissions.
≈ Search for new players to keep our sections at their peak
≈ Serve on the Board of Directors and Orchestra Committee
≈ Develop a budget, keep financial records necessary for a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
≈ Rent music, file tax returns and keep ourselves in good financial standing
≈ Acknowledge receipt of donations from our supporters.
≈ Engage in fund raising, like getting program ads and grants
≈ Brainstorm ideas to assure we progress into our next 50 years.
Plus, it takes money! Volunteer labor is essential but can’t cover everything. We have costs, like paying for performance and rehearsal space, printing brochures and programs, renting music, giving our Music Director a modest stipend, insurance, postage, special instrumentation and soloists for extraordinary productions, The list goes on.
Where Does the Money Come From?
From Our audience and friends. We delight in allowing FREE Admission to keep our doors open to all, including families and senior citizens. We are able to do that because of the ongoing generosity of our many loyal supporters. They are our mainstay.
From Our members. Each of us pays $300 a year in dues. Many contribute additional sums, some quite substantial.
From PSO souvenirs and refreshments. We ask audience and members to make donations for Prometheus commemorative items. In the past we had attractive coffee mugs. For the 50th season, we have tote bags, water bottles and champagne glasses, all featuring our fiery logo. And those intermission goodies.
From Grants and Program Ads. We have received modest and very welcome grants from the Alameda County ARTSFUND (in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2013). If you contribute to that fund when you pay your property taxes, Prometheus thanks you! We benefit from the employer “matching grant” programs of Chevron Corporation, Lam Research Corporation and others, which match the level of support the employee donates to Prometheus. We also carry “ads” – including personal tributes – in our programs.
From Donations from Friends Like You. We would not be celebrating our 50th Season without the fabulous generosity of our friends and supporters. Each concert, we “pass the hat” and are gratified by what you give. We also provide envelopes so you can send us a check, which you do with rewarding frequency. Your donations are our lifeblood, and we are very grateful.