Steamboat Symphony Orchestra saved by Arts Council, community support |

Steamboat Symphony Orchestra saved by Arts Council, community support

Nicole Inglis

The Steamboat Symphony Orchestra, which was in danger of folding because of a financial crisis, was saved by community donations and a merger with the Steamboat Springs Arts Council. It's season will go on as planned.

— The Steamboat Symphony Orchestra's Together in Concert event Oct. 26 could have been its last, but the Steamboat Springs community had something to say about that.

Orchestra Executive Director Lou Mathews said children were emptying their pockets of change to donate to the orchestra. The young students performing that night played their hearts out, and Ernest Richardson, the orchestra's music director, sold the exuberant orange tie right off his neck for $100.

In two weeks, the orchestra raised nearly $40,000 in donations to stave off an immediate financial crisis that could have canceled the annual Holiday Concert set for Dec. 1 and 2, in addition to working out a merger with the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, which will take effect Jan. 1.

Two weeks ago, orchestra officials were worried they would have to fold the organization because of a significant drop-off in donations. Now, the rest of the orchestra’s season will go on as planned.

"The way I'm looking at it is the community saved the Holiday Concert, and the Arts Council is saving the future of the orchestra," Mathews said.

"We're just so excited. This is a totally different mindset than two weeks ago."

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Clark Davidson, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, said he heard about the organization's dire financial situation from Mathews and brought the idea to the Arts Council board of merging with the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra.

"I think it's important that the Arts Council steps up whenever it can to support any of the arts organizations," Davidson said. "Especially one that's been around for 20-plus years. My hope is that as we come together, between the orchestra and the arts council, we'll be able to merge resources and really be able to function at a higher level, both of us."

Mathews said the partnership will allow the orchestra to expand its donor base and reach new audiences.

"It will give us some financial stability, it's a win/win," she said.

To support the orchestra, the Arts Council plans to use some of an endowment fund set up with part of a large financial gift from the estate of Gloria Gossard.

Grant Bursek, vice president of the Arts Council board, said the decision to merge was an easy one for the board.

"The Arts Council's mission is to effectively promote the arts in the Yampa Valley, and the orchestra is a huge part of that," he said. "Ms. Gossard was extremely supportive of classical music, and we thought this was a great way to use some of that gift."

Ernest Richardson said that in working in performing arts, he's no stranger to the struggles of relying on a donor base to keep afloat. There are times, he said, when the future can look quite bleak.

"It's really about how they've connected to the music the orchestra plays and the power of the presentations by the orchestra," he said. "I would hate to see that not happen for lack of funding. But I'm very encouraged by the fact that the funding is coming through. It speaks well of the community. Orchestras across the country would be quite jealous."

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email