Thanksgiving For The Arts: an editorial

The following editorial appears in the November 8, 2009 edition of The Roanoke Times

By David Stewart Wiley

As we move closer to Thanksgiving, I want to express my sincere thanks to our region for supporting the Roanoke Symphony (and all of the arts) during these challenging economic times. It is important for all of us to celebrate good news where it exists, and the symphony is a true success story.

The good news is the Roanoke Symphony continues to experience record ticket sales in both our classical and pops series, with 1,625 tickets sold for our opening masterworks concert and a few thousand for our upcoming pops concert with superstar Natalie Cole. While ticket sales are so important to the vitality of the RSO, even in record years they do not cover the cost of these programs. So please know that every contribution and sponsorship is needed and truly appreciated — especially now.

Every citizen in our region should take great pride in the remarkable success of their professional orchestra and chorus — particularly that we are operating with a balanced budget year after year.

Did you know the RSO alone invests close to a quarter-million dollars in taxes and fees annually for the Roanoke Valley region and Virginia? The RSO is the region’s very own artistic stimulus package.

In a time of budget strain for local schools where our dedicated teachers have to do more with less, the symphony — and all arts education programs — are more needed now than ever before.

We all recognize that support comes in many ways, from volunteer time to monetary contributions, and it is the spirit of community that drives us all to success. With that in mind, special thanks are due to The Roanoke Times for reviewing important regional musical events and artists. Stories about our recent U.S. debut of a young, rising star violinist gives us all a glimpse into a bright future for the arts. It’s inspiring and exciting. And, did you hear about the RSO’s recent encore involving electric guitar? What a wonderful illustration of how the arts transcend age and genre.

Remember the first time you heard an orchestra or a particular song or pianist? What was it that spoke to you, made you connect?

The arts have incredible power to touch us. This is the journey that we share together, for through the arts we are invited to live our lives more fully, more sensitively and with vigor.

I am grateful to serve with an amazing team of professional musicians, supported by a great executive staff, board, donors and volunteers who share in our vision and commitment. We remain a stable, strong and vital pillar in our region particularly when we take the long view, the generational view.

The marketplace puts a short-term price on everything, but the arts place not simply a price but a long-term value on those things that matter. Education, community, connections, partnerships with schools, businesses and other civic organizations: These things matter now more than ever. With your attendance and support, your orchestra will remain vital, an artistic business model of excellence that generates not only excitement but is a vital part of the region’s economic engine.

Consider this a personal invitation from me, and your entire RSO team, to share in our successful 56th symphony season. Please support all the arts — we need you and we welcome you all.