Less than a week after pledge cards were sent to supporters of the New Philharmonic Orchestra at the College of DuPage, the 36-year-old professional orchestra is beginning to get some of the financial support college officials say is necessary to keep it performing.
The 80-member ensemble was in jeopardy of giving its final performance last month, in the face of declining attendance during off-campus performances as the orchestra's home, the McAninch Arts Center, undergoes a $35 million renovation project.
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But a better turnout at that performance and an outpouring of support from patrons via emails to college officials spurred them to approve an abbreviated 2013-14 season -- all the while emphasizing that increased financial support from the community would be necessary to keep the orchestra performing once the MAC reopens in 2014.
On Thursday, MAC Director Stephen Cummins told the college's board of trustees that five days after sending pledge cards to past subscribers and current donors of the orchestra, a total of $20,000 has been pledged to date.
The college's annual goal to patrons is $150,000, as part of a three-season pledge drive that officials say would guarantee the orchestra remains at the MAC through 2016.
"If we keep up at this pace, we'll do just fine," Cummins said.
The goal, he said, is to get the orchestra and other arts offerings at the MAC, such as the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, to operate as any nonprofit community arts organization would.
COD Senior Vice President for Administration Tom Glaser said the college is trying to minimize losses on all of its auxiliary enterprises, including the Waterleaf Restaurant and WDCB-FM radio station, and eventually break even.
Last year, the MAC lost $519,000.
COD President Robert Breuder said there's several programs and services the college offers that don't make money, but he believes there's still value to them.
"We offer those services because we know the community responds to them," Breuder said. "The MAC has never made money, and yet it is an important part of this institution."
Conductor Kirk Muspratt thanked college officials Thursday for supporting the orchestra, and is looking forward to returning to the MAC once it reopens.
"We've had a crisis, and you've been, for my money, very open-minded, fair-minded and sensible," Muspratt said. "We are a product and we should be able to sustain ourselves."