As guests gathered Thursday morning for the launch of the annual fund drive for Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, they were greeted with a performance by chamber trio Laurel Strings.
Marty Radovanic, WJAC-TV news anchor, served as host for the event at the Holiday Inn Johnstown-Downtown.
“We get requests for donations all the time, especially from the arts because the government support isn’t what it used to be,” Radovanic said.
“Johnstown Symphony Orchestra is an absolute jewel,” Radovanic said. “They’re all professional musicians, but they have other jobs. It costs money to run an organization like this, and every year the community comes through.”
Co-chairwoman Karen Azer announced the goal for the 2014 fund drive is $110,000 and urged donors to increase the amount of their gift if possible.
The symphony board of trustees started the campaign with an initial gift of $10,000.
“Orchestras across the nation are struggling to survive, but I’m confident we can reach our goal,” Azer said.
“No gift is too small. The symphony has enriched our lives in so many ways. Johnstown is fortunate to have Maestro and the musicians. They have the quality of a large metropolitan orchestra.”
Glenn Wilson, president and CEO of AmeriServ Financial, announced that AmeriServ will step forward as a 2014 leadership sponsor, with part of its gift going toward the annual fund.
“My wife and I are newcomers,” Wilson said. “We’ve only been here 41⁄2 years. Having a symphony orchestra in Johnstown was a check on the plus side before we moved to Johnstown. I myself like pops more than classics, but I also need other people to want to come here.”
Wilson cited the annual Christmas program as one of the things he enjoys about the symphony.
“I feel it’s important,” Wilson said. “The symphony is a gem. It has to have support to continue. We have to make it happen.”
Maestro Istvan Jary, music director and conductor of the symphony, took the audience on a historical journey to a time when the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra was considered stuffy and elite.
“The orchestra went through a metamorphosis,” Jaray said.
“We cannot live in the past. The world is changing around us. The musical tastes of the audience are diverse, and we must try to satisfy their wishes. We cannot be happy with the status quo.”
The symphony has had productions with opera and ballet companies from Pittsburgh and concerts to celebrate patriotism, Halloween, Valentine’s Day and black history.
Jaray said the changes of the past few years do not mean a lower quality product.
“We’re always short on money, but not on talent,” he added. “The symphony is a symbol of our commitment to a better quality of life. Do yourself a favor and get music and the arts into your blood.”
In addition to the seven-concert subscription series, the fund drive supports the symphony’s youth orchestra, children’s and adult choruses, community strings program and share-the-music program.
“Johnstown Symphony Orchestra consists of accomplished and talented musicians and a board of trustees and staff who work diligently to present dynamic and entertaining concerts and innovative education and outreach programs to the community each year,” executive director Brooke Welsh said.
“Your gift will increase the success of the annual fund drive and allow the JSO the ability to present great music to our community for years to come.”
Informational brochures will be mailed to anyone with a known connection to Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, including ticket buyers, previous donors and members of JSO performing groups.
Information: 535-6738 or www.johnstownsymphony.org.
Ruth Rice covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at Twitter.com/RuthRiceTD.