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May 11, 2007

The Long Island Philharmonic at LIMBA

Larry Austin, chairman of Austin Travel and The Long Island Philharmonic Board of Directors, came by to give us an update on the Philharmonic close to the finale of their 28th season.  Larry is a past president of LIMBA, like the Philharmonic, a long running show.  The final two concerts of the season will take place at the Staller Center on Saturday, May 19th, and at the Tilles Center, Sunday, May 20th.  Mr. Austin opened with the story of how he got involved with the Philharmonic, relating stories about its founder, Harry Chapin, and his philosophy of having a base for the classical performing arts on Long Island, consisting of the Eglevsky ballet, the Philharmonic, and the PAF playhouse.  The philharmonic has had its ups and downs, over the years, with the past three being on an uptrend, on the way to erasing what was a $900,000 deficit when Mr. Austin took over as director.  David Wiley is the current music director, producing an eclectic program of classical symphony pieces, pops concerts and children's outreach in the schools.

The Philharmonic also takes pride in both its stability, having only 4 music directors over its history, and its quality of those directors.  Marin Alsop, the current music director of the Baltimore Symphony, was the director from 1989 to 1995, leaving after winning a MacArthur Fellowship.  The turnaround in the fortunes of the Philharmonic has been led on the creative side by Mr. Wiley and the business side by the stewardship of Mr. Austin and the excecutive director, Stephen Belth.  Corporate and governmental sponsorship has been instrumental in turning things around, with Sen. Hilary Clinton's steadfast support, along with State Senator Carl Marcellino, having delivered grants at both the federal and state level.  UBS made a generous 5-year challenge grant of $250,000, which was matched by individual donors such as Charles Dolan, David Lerner, Marvin Sussman, and Billy Joel.  Mr. Austin let us know about the formation of a Chairman's council, in an effort to form a larger core group of supporters.
The Q and A session was mostly a bunch of suggestions from the audience on how to help build the community of the philharmonic, modeling some aspects on the success of the Gateway Playhouse, and the adoption of iPod culture in an effort to stay connected with the audience and draw them out to live performances.  The final concerts in the season will be Great Moments In Opera, with a full chorus. 

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