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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bravo to state officials for symphony funding

Every great city deserves a great symphony orchestra. Now, with a new $4 million infusion from the state, the Honolulu Symphony gets a fighting chance to show how great it can truly be.

For 106 years, the Symphony has, for the most part, filled its role aptly, delivering its share of memorable musical moments that have contributed to the culture of the Islands. But as an organization, the Symphony has also come perilously close to hitting rock bottom. That's not the kind of crescendo anyone wants to hear.

That dynamic, however, has added to the annual drama behind the Symphony's beautiful music: How can the orchestra continue to develop a legacy of musical greatness when management of the nonprofit constantly finds itself struggling in survival mode year after year?

With an endowment of only $6 million, about $10 million less than orchestras the same size, the Honolulu Symphony has been woefully underfunded. The state's new $4 million appropriation, along with matching grants from donors, will bring the Symphony's endowment to about $14 million.

The infusion of cash also includes a smaller grant of $150,000 to fund youth music concerts and music education on O'ahu and the Neighbor Islands. It shows how the Symphony is more than a repository of the classics, but plays a teaching role in our local community. That serves to underscore the deeper contribution the Symphony can make when it's firing on all cylinders.