After four decades playing music for Middle Georgia, the Macon Symphony Orchestra is bringing down the curtain for good. It gives its final performance Saturday, a program called "A Fond Farewell."
Bob Veto, board chair of the Macon Symphony, joins Sarah Zaslaw to explain the decision to close up shop and the impulse behind the sendoff concert.
On the Macon Symphony’s special financial circumstances
There are two things. One is that Macon is a somewhat smaller community – our population now is just under 100,000 – and it’s hard for a smaller community to support a professional symphony orchestra.
And the second one is that fully 95 percent of our musicians don’t live here, and so every time we stage a concert we’re bringing them in from all over the area, and that’s what really causes our concerts to be expensive to stage. You’re paying travel for them and they have to stay a couple of nights.
It got increasingly difficult for us to do the kind of fundraising that we had to do. For a number of years we’ve been operating in the red, chasing our tails. There was a time when the Macon Symphony Orchestra staged six concerts per year. Several years ago we cut that back to four and then two years ago we cut it back to three, and even at that we were awash in red ink at the end of the year.
On canceling the rest of the season but keeping the October concert
We felt that we owed our supporters a formal goodbye. So we were able to go to a lot of people who had been supporters of the Macon Symphony Orchestra and say, “Help us throw a big party and say farewell appropriately.” Certainly our musicians as well, we owe them our loyalty and support. We wanted to go out in a positive way and stage one last concert. And we’re going to be okay, we’re going to be able to pay all our bills and walk away clean.
Our music director, Gerry Steichen, was very willing, when we shared the bad news with him about the demise of the Macon Symphony Orchestra, he went back and recast this concert entirely as a farewell concert, just shredded his notes and created a concert that would give us some favorites for the local audience.
On the Macon Symphony’s educational role in the community
There’s been an educational component that I hope we can find a way to make up. During the week of the concerts typically our music director has gone into the schools. We’ve staged a concert as part of the rehearsal process for area schoolchildren to come be bused into the Grand Opera House and hear the concert. Those things are going to be missed. But I’m hopeful we will be able to pick up in some ways as a community, not the Macon Symphony Orchestra, which will cease to exist, but that the community will be able to pick up some of the avenues that have been lost.
The Macon Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Gregory Pritchard perform the intermezzo from the Háry János Suite by Zoltan Kodaly.