Did you know that the Asheville Symphony has no formal connection with the Asheville Civic Center, other than performing its concerts there? And did you know that only 40 percent of the symphony’s budget comes from ticket sales? These are just two of the most common misconceptions about the orchestra, according to Executive Director Steven Hageman.
“We have no control over the bad acoustics, the horrible lack of parking, the shortage of bathrooms — the things people complain about,” he says, adding that the symphony pays the Civic Center more than $50,000 a year to play in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, plus $36,000 a year for office space. “Some of us question why we have to pay so much money, when you have [organizations] like the Asheville Tourists who are subsidized by the city,” Hageman notes.
To keep the music coming, the symphony counts on individual and corporate contributors, concert-program advertising, and support from the Arts Alliance. Corporate support, says Hageman, is harder to come by here than in bigger cities (it averages about $50,000 a year, he says, compared to more than $100,000 from individual contributors).
“Unlike Charlotte or even Greensboro, there are really no large corporations headquartered here,” he explains. “I try to get $5,000 in total corporate donations for each concert — and that’s, without a doubt, the most difficult [part of] my job.”
Hageman also cites the lack of competitive spirit among Asheville donors. While the cutthroat competition among big-city donors can get obnoxious, that attitude does bring in money.
“When I lived in Boca Raton, Fla., everybody would compete to be at the top of the list, in terms of giving,” Hageman remembers. “Here, it’s just the opposite. Our wealthy people drive Volvos instead of Rolls Royces, and ask to be listed in a lower category than the money they’ve actually donated. … [But] people who do give here do it out of true love for what they’re hearing.”
Hageman also notes that arts organizations in the Piedmont and eastern part of the state simply seem to get more money than their counterparts in the west.
As a result, the ASO can no longer afford to hire top-tier guest artists like Itzhak Perlman, focusing instead on younger artists with impressive credentials who are not yet priced out of the market — such as this season’s Philip Quint and Alan Gampel. “They enjoy being in Asheville and hanging out, like playing with our musicians, and go out for a beer with us afterwards,” says Hageman.
Public misconceptions about the cost of presenting classical music don’t help either, he continues. “Many people somehow expect classical music to be free,” he says. “When you were in grade school, your school would take to you hear that kind of music, and it didn’t cost anything. Then, when you got a little older and wanted to go see The Rolling Stones, it cost money. So you grow up with this concept that rock music costs a lot of money, but classical music is free.”
Asheville Symphony Orchestra 1998 Schedule
The Asheville Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 38th season on Saturday, Sept. 19. All concerts begin at 8 p.m. in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.
Sept. 19: “Opening Night,” featuring works by Brahms, Mozart and Tchaikovsky, with guest pianist Alan Gampel.
Oct. 17: “A Little Traveling Music,” featuring works by Rossini, Lalo, Suppe and Schumann, with violinist Philip Quint.
Nov. 21: “2001 — A Musical Odyssey,” featuring works by Dvorak, Hummel and Strauss’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra” (the opening theme to the movie 2001), with trumpeter Stephen Burns.
Feb. 20: “Music that Dances,” featuring works by Beethoven, Khachaturian and Ravel, with a young violinist from the Cleveland Institute of Music.
March 20: “The Maestro’s Tribute to Carnegie Hall,” featuring works by Brahms and Mahler, with mezzo-soprano Gwendolyn Lentz, the Asheville Symphony Chorus and the Mars Hill College Choir.
April 17: “Spring Serenade,” featuring works by Rachmaninoff, Handel and Tchaikovsky, with pianist Dmitri Ratser.
Special events include an opening-night benefit dinner in the Civic Center Banquet Hall on Sept. 19; a holiday pops concert on Dec. 12, and the cabaret-style May Pops on May 8. Also, don’t miss the Asheville Symphony Chorus’ fall and spring concerts in Diana Wortham Theatre, slated for Nov. 7 and April 24. The fall concert, “Invitation to the Dance,” will feature waltzes by Brahms and Strauss; the spring concert is called “The Immortal Mozart.”
Many ticket options — single tickets, packages and subscriptions — are offered. Call 254-7026 for complete ticket info and prices.