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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Symphony hopes to soar with $4 million from state

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer


Approved by state to expand Honolulu Symphony endowment


Current size of endowment


Symphony’s ultimate goal for permanent endowment

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The Honolulu Symphony received a financial boost from the state with a $4 million appropriation to its permanent endowment and a $150,000 grant to support music education programs.

The money was appropriated by the Legislature, and Gov. Linda Lingle signed off on the funding yesterday. It is considered a major step toward solidifying the 106-year-old Symphony's long-term survival.

The Symphony will be expected to raise matching funds, as required by the state in its allocation.

"I think this is a wonderful endorsement of the role the symphony plays in our lives," said Lynn Johnson, executive director of the Honolulu Symphony Foundation, the nonprofit organization which administers the endowment.

The Symphony's endowment now stands at about $6 million, and it can use up to 5 percent, or roughly $300,000, to meet annual costs.

Symphonies typically rely on interest drawn from endowments to offset operating expenses. The average endowment for an orchestra of similar size is more than $16 million.

The state helped to start the Symphony's endowment a decade ago with $2 million that was matched by the Symphony.

Johnson said the foundation hopes to match the current allocation "as soon as possible" with money from planned, estate and legacy gifts and other nongovernmental sources.

The state allocation and matching gifts would raise the Symphony's endowment to $14 million. Johnson said the ultimate goal is to bring the endowment up to $20 million.

The $150,000 grant-in-aid, which Johnson hopes will be renewed annually, will fund youth music concerts, competitions, lectures and other educational activities. Under interim President and Executive Director Gideon Toeplitz, the Symphony renewed its traditional commitment to music education and to bringing the orchestra into various communities on O'ahu and the Neighbor Islands.

Johnson said the infusion of funds is an indication of the government's "long-term vision."

"In addition to its cultural value, the Symphony is an economic driver," Johnson said. "The Symphony is a cornerstone of the arts community, and there are a lot of businesses that would be impacted if it went away.

"The governor and the Legislature aren't just into short-term solutions, but long-term vision. I think (the allocation) was a hard-nosed economic decision as well as a feel-good decision."

The $4 million allocation will be paid as a lump sum.

Further stability should come in the next few days, when the Symphony is expected to name a new executive director.

Stephen Bloom stepped down as president last April. Toeplitz, on loan from the Arts Consulting Group, completed his contract with the Symphony in March.

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.