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A good idea

1 Robert Levine

This is interesting:

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has announced the first recipient of the Mabel Dorn Reeder Honorary Chair: It’s associate concertmaster Heidi Harris.

The chair, announced in July 2010, was established with a $2 million endowment from the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation. It is awarded, based on “excellence in artistry and leadership within the orchestra and the community,” to a member of the SLSO for a five-year period, and is accompanied by a one-time $10,000 stipend for professional development.

In a statement, Foundation trustee Mabel Purkerson, Reeder’s goddaughter, said that the award was a way to support both the SLSO and “the individual efforts of the musicians themselves,” and the orchestra members’ commitment to the St. Louis community.

I wonder if this line from the press release is an important part of the story as well:

All of Harris’ solo and recital performances benefit Livada Orphan Care.

There’s not nearly enough recognition in our business for career-spanning achievements by orchestra musicians. Principals (or at least some principals) get solo opportunities and additional pay, but even that doesn’t recognize achievement aside from simply being able to play concerti and stay in management’s (or the music director’s) good graces. And section musicians basically get ignored by everyone in terms of professional recognition. This kind of thing, if emulated by other orchestras, could begin to make up for that lack.

I had two questions reading the article, though. The first is “who picks the winners”? Ideally the decision-making process would include several internal constituencies, including of course the musicians.

The second is that a $2 million endowment ought to be able to support more of an award than $10,000 every five years. Admittedly the old rule of a 5% return being sustainable doesn’t sound very… sustainable at the moment. But $10,000 is 0.5%, and $10,000 every five years is 0.1%. Is this simply a mis-reporting of the facts? If not, where does the rest of the money go?

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  1. Comment by Patricia Whaley
    January 6, 2019 at 12:53 PM

    Is it possible that there will be more than one recipient at a time? In other words, will there be a new recipient designated each year,so that there are rolling 5-year terms that overlap one another?

    Besides, you can’t take more than a small amount of money out at one time without making that mattress REALLY uncomfortable…