Anonymous $2 million donation pays Colorado Symphony salaries

Colorado Symphony will be able to pay its employees’ salaries and health insurance through summer 2021 thanks to a $2 million anonymous gift, even as painful shutdowns continue for most nonprofit performing arts companies across the United States.

The gift, which was received last year but disclosed in a press statement in late January, brings Colorado Symphony’s end-of-2020 fundraising to a record $2.5 million. It bolsters the $122,000 that the symphony raised on Colorado Gives Day (Dec. 8, 2020); the completion of a matching, $50,000 grant by The Butler Family Fund of The Denver Foundation; and more than $150,000 in ticket donations “by generous patrons and subscribers from canceled concerts,” officials said.

The hope is that the symphony will continue to have the resources to pay musicians and staff until outdoor concerts can begin again in the summer — and possibly indoors in the fall, depending on vaccinations, the symphony said. Leaders plan to hang on to the symphony’s Play On Recovery Fund until pre-pandemic operations return.

“This significant donation will help maintain our operations as we continue to work toward the time when we can perform with audiences in Boettcher Concert Hall,” Jerry Kern, CEO and chairman, said in the statement.

Also in January: Colorado Symphony announced a contract extension for resident conductor Christopher Dragon through the 2023-2024 concert season. The energetic Australian, who has led shows ranging from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (last year at Red Rocks, and socially distanced) to sold-out Flaming Lips album recordings, has become a fixture alongside music director Brett Mitchell — and a favorite of pop and rock bands who collaborate with the symphony.

Following his 18 shows at Red Rocks last year and many before that, he’s also now the conductor with the most appearances at Red Rocks Ampitheatre, symphony officials said.

“It’s an absolute honor to have this opportunity to remain part of a world-class orchestra like the Colorado Symphony,” Dragon said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the tremendous musicians and staff of the organization moving forward as we look to come back stronger than ever we resume pre-COVID-19 concert operations in Boettcher Concert Hall.”

Colorado Symphony’s usual packed schedule of shows and live movie scores has been furloughed most of the past year, along with every other performing arts organization, but leaders plan to present more live concerts in 2021 following the sold-out success of its socially-distanced acoustic series at Red Rocks (capped at 175 people per performance) last summer.

Rehiring Dragon was a smart move, considering the youthful electricity and personality he’s brought to Colorado Symphony productions over the last five years (having joined in the 2015-2016 season).

“Christopher … has been an indispensable asset and audience favorite since coming on board as associate conductor six seasons ago, and we’re thrilled that he’ll be a mainstay on our podium for the next four seasons …,” said Anthony Pierce, chief artistic officer. “Since being named resident conductor two seasons ago, it’s been a pleasure to watch him blossom and mature while taking on additional leadership within our organization.”

Since the start of the 2021 fiscal year (on July 1, 2020), the symphony has reported raising more than $4 million, making it possible to keep musicians and staff on call for the past 10 months, along with virtual programming.

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