News & Updates

Remembering Michael Stairs

Posted by on Jul 3rd, 2019 in News & Updates | 0 comments

Michael Stairs

Michael Stairs, Trustee 1985-2018

Our beloved Board member and one of the great musical artists and teachers in the field of organ performance, Michael Stairs, passed away on August 11, 2018.

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Michael, beyond his artistry as a musician, was a man of sterling character. He exemplified truly exceptional human qualities of modesty and compassion for others.  He brought these qualities and keen insight to his work on behalf of the Foundation.
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One of Michael’s final acts on behalf of The Presser Foundation was to designate his special directed grant to the benefit of students at the Curtis Institute.  He gave his time generously and willingly to the work of the Foundation, serving on the Board for thirty-three years, and was an exemplary committee chair, most recently of the Advancement of Music Committee.  We shall all miss him, his wisdom, his gentle manner, and the beauty he brought to so many performances.

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Capital Support Grants

Posted by on Apr 18th, 2019 in News & Updates | 0 comments

April 18, 2019 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania- The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of grantees for Capital Support.  These grants, totaling $761,185 this fiscal year, include $445,000 in new commitments and $316,185 satisfying previous commitments.  These grants are designated for capital projects of music presenting, music performing and music education organizations in the Greater Philadelphia Area. Capital projects typically include the construction of new facilities and the renovation or expansion of existing facilities.

Corey R. Smith, Chair of the Capital Support Committee,commented on these grants, “A community music school, two undergraduate schools of music, and a historic regional arts center comprise this year’s list of new grantees for Capital Support. Reflecting the spectrum of music organizations supported by The Presser Foundation, we congratulate them and are pleased to be associated with capital projects of such significance and impact.” 

2018-19 Capital Support Grantees (in alphabetical order)

Darlington Arts Center

Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation*

Kimmel Center, Inc., Academy of Music*

OperaDelaware*

Rowan University Foundation

State Theatre Regional Arts Center at New Brunswick, Inc.

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts*

University of the Arts

*Previous Multi-Year Grantee

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Advancement of Music Grants

Posted by on Mar 1st, 2019 in News & Updates | 0 comments

March 1, 2019 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of sixty-nine multi- and single year grantees for Advancement of Music. These grants, totaling $865,500, provide general operating support to music presenting, music performing and music education organizations in the Greater Philadelphia Area.

William B. McLaughlin, III, Chair of the Advancement of Music Committee, commented, “It is an honor to provide the largest round of critical operating support grants to so many musical organizations in and around Philadelphia.  The Presser Foundation is proud to help sustain and nurture these organizations that are essential to the communities and audiences they serve.”

 

2018-19 Advancement of Music Grantees (in alphabetical order)

 

Academy of Vocal Arts

Allentown Symphony Association

Anna Crusis Women’s Choir

Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

Ars Nova Workshop

ArtistYear

Artistas y Musicos Latino Americanos

Astral Artists, Inc.

Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra

Bowerbird

Bucks County Choral Society

Bucks County Symphony Society

Chamber Music Society of Bethlehem

Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia

Chester Children’s Chorus

Choir School of Delaware

Choral Arts Philadelphia

Commonwealth Youthchoirs

Community Conservatory

Community Music School Lehigh Valley

Community Music School of Collegeville

Concert Operetta Theatre

Darlington Arts Center

Delaware County Youth Orchestra

Delaware Symphony Orchestra

Dolce Suono Ensemble

Esperanza

Friends of the Wanamaker Organ

Kimmel Center, Inc.

Lancaster Symphony Orchestra

LiveConnections

Lyra Society

Market Square Concerts

Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia

Music at Gretna, Inc.

Musicopia

Network for New Music

Opera Philadelphia

OperaDelaware

Orchestra 2001

Philadelphia Chamber Music Society

Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts

Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus

Philadelphia Youth Orchestra

Piffaro, The Renaissance Band

Play On, Philly!

Princeton Symphony Orchestra

PRISM Quartet, Inc.

Project 440

Reading Symphony Orchestra

Riverside Symphonia

Settlement Music School

Singing City

State Theatre Regional Arts Center at New Brunswick, Inc.

Symphony in C

Tempesta di Mare, Inc.

Temple University Music Preparatory Division

The Allentown Band

The Bach Choir of Bethlehem

The Crossing

The Friends of Chamber Music of Reading, Inc.

The Georgia E. Gregory Interdenominational School of Music

The Mann Center of the Performing Arts

The Music School of Delaware

The Philadelphia Orchestra

The Princeton Festival

Trenton Children’s Chorus, Inc.

Trenton Community Music School

Tri-County Concerts Association, Inc.

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Special Project Grants

Posted by on Dec 21st, 2018 in News & Updates | 0 comments

December 21, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania- The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection and funding of seventeen new Special Projects from music organizations in the greater Philadelphia area. These grants, totaling $321,500, are in addition to other previous Foundation commitments of $27,000 to organizations including LiveConnections and Curtis Institute of Music. Peter Burwasser, Chair of the Special Projects Committee, commented, “The Presser Foundation is honored to support our musical community with our annual Special Projects grants. This year our grantees cross a range of organizations that reflect the wonderful diversity of our region, including commissions of new works, anniversary performances, milestone performances and new projects. We are especially pleased to be able to honor several distinguished musical luminaries, including the late Philadelphia Orchestra organist Michael Stairs, composer and conductor Jan Kryzwicki and long-time arts manager Nancy Newman.”

Special Project Grants: (in alphabetical order)

  • Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
  • Astral Artists, Inc.
  • Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra
  • Chestnut Street Singers
  • Darlington Arts Center
  • Friends of the Wanamaker Organ
  • Lyric Fest
  • Network for New Music
  • Opera Philadelphia
  • OperaDelaware
  • Piffaro, The Renaissance Band
  • Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
  • Philadelphia Youth Orchestra
  • PRISM Quartet, Inc.
  • The Crossing
  • The Georgia E. Gregory Interdenominational School of Music
  • The Mann Center for the Performing Arts

More information on the Foundation’s grant making activity can be found on its website www.presserfoundation.org.

About The Presser Foundation

The Presser Foundation was established in 1939 under the Deeds of Trust and Will of the late Theodore Presser. It is one of the few private foundations in the United States dedicated solely to music education and music philanthropy. The Presser Foundation supports a broad range of classical symphonic, chamber, choral and vocal music performance and education through general operating and program grants to music organizations; capital grants for music building projects; undergraduate and graduate student awards; and assistance to retired music teachers.  Much of the grant making focus of the Foundation is on organizations and institutions in the 75-mile radius surrounding Center City Philadelphia.

 

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Capital Support Grants

Posted by on Apr 26th, 2018 in News & Updates | 0 comments

April 26, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of grantees for Capital Support.  These grants, totaling $716,185 this fiscal year including $352,370 in new commitments and $405,000 satisfying previous commitments.  These grants are designated for capital projects of music organizations providing supports a broad range of classical symphonic, chamber, choral and vocal music. Capital projects include the construction of new facilities and the renovation or expansion of existing facilities.

Dr. Jeffrey Cornelius, Chair of the Capital Support Committee commented on these grants, “From among many worthy proposals submitted to The Presser Foundation for this year‘s capital support grants, the Board of Trustees selected the following organizations for funding. These proposals were deemed to be particularly in line with the aims of the founder, Theodore Presser, and promise to provide the type of support he envisioned for musical institutions almost a century ago.  We congratulate these organizations and are pleased to be associated with the fine results they are accomplishing.” 

 2017-18 Capital Support Grantees (in alphabetical order)

Agnes Scott College, Presser Legacy

Community Music School of Collegeville

Curtis Institute of Music

The Grand Opera House

Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation*

Kimmel Center, Inc., Academy of Music*

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts*

The Music School of Delaware

Ohio Wesleyan University, Presser Legacy*

OperaDelaware

Temple University, Boyer College of Music and Dance*

University of Delaware*

*Previous Multi-Year Grantee

Thoughts on Bob Capanna’s Remembrance

Posted by on Mar 12th, 2018 in News & Updates | 0 comments

What really matters in the arts? Bob Capanna remembrance served as a reminder

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Arts leaders at a memorial concert for Settlement Music School’s Bob Capanna (above) celebrated his life and achievements.

It’s not every day that the arts community gets together to talk about a set of principles. But if you listened between the lines last Sunday at the Perelman Theater, that’s what was happening at the memorial for Robert Capanna.

The event shouldn’t have been happening at all, said one speaker. But happening it was: a remembrance of Capanna, the composer who stepped down as head of the Settlement Music School at the end of 2009 after 27 years. Capanna died in January at age 65 – too soon by any clock, but tragically early considering he had consolidated a lifetime of knowledge and experience in music, administration, and investment management into a singular set of strengths.

Given all this, plus the trust and credibility he engendered from donors, he should be running the Philadelphia Orchestra right about now. Maybe his spirit will animate that search for a new president with some imagination.

It seems an apt time to weave together a few of the threads that made Capanna who he was — the Bobness of Bob, if you will. Capanna embodied a set of high ideals that arts institutions might aim for as the sector struggles with questions of identity versus survival, art versus entertainment, flavor-of-the-month programming ideas to please funders versus core mission, and the endless strain of working harder for an ever-smaller slice of the attention pie.

Clarifying Sunday’s comments down to a core philosophy, you might conclude that the arts community doesn’t need more foundations developing position papers on cultural policy or consultants lording that policy over arts groups. What it needs is a little more time connecting with the soul of art.

A composer himself — Capanna once called his music “wildly unpopular and difficult” — the South Philadelphian had a way of cutting right to the heart of the matter. Several speakers Sunday referenced it, sometimes humorously.

When he came across something with which he disagreed, he called it “cute,” said Matthew Levy, executive and co-artistic director of the Prism Quartet. That decoding surely had many of us shifting in our seats uncomfortably, trying to recall whether Capanna ever applied the word to any idea we floated in his presence.

Big truths in small morsels

He rendered strong opinions generously, but what was remarkable was how much truth he could pack into one concise, carefully aimed volley.

Capanna would often host pre-concert talks for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and Philip Maneval, PCMS’s executive director, recalled one memorable audience back-and-forth that went like this:

“Why can’t living composers write music like Brahms?” one listener asked, to which Bob replied, “They don’t need to, Brahms already did!”

In that one sentence, without condescension or pretentiousness, Capanna managed an entire explanation of why we need contemporary composers.

Audience member: “How have recordings changed the way that people perform today?”

Capanna: “Well, they’ve made musicians far too careful.”

What truth. Through natural selection, many of the instrumentalists and conductors we hear today are technically superior and musically cold — or at least, putting too much emphasis on the former and not enough on the latter.

“He answered each question intelligently, patiently, and with a smile. Invariably, he would educate and win over everyone,” said Maneval.

Music for the prodigies and the rest of us

Sunday’s memorial, which included performances of Capanna’s own compositions, was a chance for colleagues to thank him. Among them was Katharine Sokoloff, retired fund-raiser for Settlement Music School, who said that Capanna showed her that “music doesn’t only belong to prodigies and that Settlement faculty is the school’s heart and soul.”

Again, so much truth, so few words.

The arts world remains terribly taken with prodigies. Their unlikely nature makes for admittedly compelling stories. But the idea that prodigies are more deserving of opportunity and attention is a pernicious notion. Every artist develops and matures at a different point and rate. There are early bloomers who fade, and latecomers who, mysteriously one day, arrive fully formed.

Let’s also not forget that students not destined to become professional should get training, too. They are tomorrow’s ticket buyers, donors, and board members. Capanna never forgot that music was for everyone.

And, as Capanna intimated, for all of the larding of the upper administration at many an arts organization (admittedly necessary in the modern age), the core strength of a school is at the point of contact between student and teacher, just as the of an orchestra or theater troupe begins and ends with who’s on stage.

What ‘real art’ requires

I don’t think anyone specifically referenced Capanna’s thoughts on today’s confusion over what qualifies as art and what as entertainment, but he once explained it to me this way: Experiencing art takes work, he said. “That’s what separates real art from entertainment. Real art requires an effort on the part of the listener and viewer. That doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining; it’s richer.”

And in entertainment, his taste was superb. Not long ago we told him we were binge-watching the Supergirl series on Netflix with our daughter. “Oh, that’s a good show,” he shot back.

If you’re wondering how Capanna’s words found action in his lifetime, just look at his deeds at Settlement Music School. Philadelphia’s arts groups as a whole finally seem serious about social mission and the democratization of the arts. But Capanna long ago greatly expanded the school’s reach to younger, older, and more diverse students, and set about finding them in more parts of the region.

Surely, Capanna cannot have been uniquely wise or capable. There happens to be a lot of talent in town today, and many arts leaders are coming up with creative ideas for a changing world. David Devan at Opera Philadelphia and Catherine Cahill at the Mann often impress with their ability to create new art from scant resources.

Capanna himself saw evolution as being healthy. When he retired from Settlement, he said: “I think inevitably the institution needs to change and develop, and after 30 years you can’t continue to do that. It’s the way life is. Nothing is forever. ”

True enough. But Capanna often functioned as a kind of conscience for the city, a one-man reality check against fad masquerading as innovation, and with an abiding belief in the common good and achieving it through an institution.

Sunday’s recollections got to the core of what matters most in art, and Capanna always knew how to get there without selling out. We are not likely to see all that again in one package anytime soon.

News Release: Advancement of Music Grants Announced by The Presser Foundation

Posted by on Mar 2nd, 2018 in News & Updates | 0 comments

March 2, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of multi- and single year grantees for Advancement of Music. These grants, totaling $828,000, provide general operating support to music presenting, music performing and music education organizations in the Greater Philadelphia Area.

Michael Stairs, Chair of the Advancement of Music Committee, commented, “We have the greatest of confidence in these grantee organizations doing work that not only advances our own goals and strategies, but provides the best in orchestral and choral music programming.  It is an honor to provide critical general operating support to the leadership and management of so many music organizations in the Greater Philadelphia Area.” 

 2017-18 Advancement of Music Grantees (in alphabetical order)

Academy of Vocal Arts

Allentown Symphony Association

Anna Crusis Women’s Choir

Ars Nova Workshop

Artistas y Musicos Latino Americanos

Astral Artistic Services, Inc.

Bowerbird

Bucks County Choral Society

Bucks County Symphony Society

Chamber Music Society of Bethlehem

Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia

Chester Children’s Chorus

Choir School of Delaware

Choral Arts Philadelphia

Commonwealth Youthchoirs

Community Conservatory

Community Music School Lehigh Valley

Community Music School of Collegeville

Darlington Arts Center

Delaware County Youth Orchestra

Delaware Symphony Orchestra

Dolce Suono Ensemble

Friends of Wanamaker Organ

Kimmel Center, Inc.

Lancaster Symphony Orchestra

Lyric Fest

Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia

Musicopia

Network for New Music

Opera Philadelphia

OperaDelaware

Orchestra 2001

Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale

Philadelphia Chamber Music Society

Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts

Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus

Philadelphia Music Teachers Association

Philadelphia Youth Orchestra

Piffaro, The Renaissance Band

Play On, Philly!

Princeton Symphony Orchestra

PRISM Quartet, Inc.

Project 440

Reading Symphony Orchestra

Riverside Symphonia

Settlement Music School

Singing City

State Theatre Regional Arts Center at New Brunswick, Inc.

Symphony in C

Tempesta di Mare, Inc.

Temple University Music Preparatory Division

The Allentown Band

The Bach Choir of Bethlehem

The Crossing

The Friends of Chamber Music of Reading, Inc.

The Mann Center of the Performing Arts

The Music School of Delaware

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Trenton Children’s Chorus, Inc.

Trenton Community Music School

Tri-County Concerts Association, Inc.

 

In Memoriam: Robert Capanna, Former President of The Presser Foundation

Posted by on Jan 29th, 2018 in News & Updates | 0 comments

Robert Capanna

Robert Capanna, Former President of The Presser Foundation

It was with the profoundest sense of loss and sadness that we received news of the passing on January 26, 2018, of our dear friend, colleague, and former President of The Presser Foundation, Robert Capanna.  Known and respected by all as a gifted composer, visionary leader, financial strategist, and as a man of scruples and conviction, his legacy to the art of music, to the City of Philadelphia and the region, to the nation through his leadership of organizations dedicated to advancing the causes of music and education and, specifically, to The Presser Foundation will long be felt by and influence the countless people and organizations he touched.

Bob’s leadership as President of The Presser Foundation for ten years resulted in major strategic planning, thoughtful revision and updating of the Foundation’s approaches to virtually every dimension of its philanthropy, steadfast adherence to the guiding principles established by Theodore Presser himself, and, in sum, exemplary stewardship.

The Presser Foundation Trustees, Committee Members and staff express sincerest condolences to his wife, Cathryn Coate, to his children, and to his extended family and his many colleagues and friends at this time of great loss.

A visitation is set for Wednesday, January 31st from 4:00-6:00pm at the Pennsylvania Burial Co./Baldi Funeral Home, 1327-29 S. Broad Street.  A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Donations in his name may be made to the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, 1528 Walnut Street, Philadelphia 19102; PRISM Quartet, 257 W. Harvey Street Philadelphia 19144; and Philadelphia FIGHT, 1233 Locust Street, Philadelphia 19107.

 

 

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Special Project Grants

Posted by on Dec 20th, 2017 in News & Updates | 0 comments

December 20, 2017 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of twelve new Special Projects totaling $259,500 in both single year and multiple year grants. These grants are in addition to multi-year commitments to The Philadelphia Orchestra and Bucks County Choral Society, totaling $54,100. Peter Burwasser, Chair of the Special Projects Committee, commented, “Philadelphia has one of the most vibrant music scenes in the country, and we at the Presser Foundation are both proud and privileged to play such a vital part in supporting this rich community.”

Special Project Grants: (in alphabetical order)

  • Astral Artists, Inc.
  • Chester Children’s Chorus
  • Choir School of Delaware
  • LiveConnections
  • Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia
  • Network for New Music
  • Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
  • Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus
  • PRISM Quartet, Inc.
  • Relache, Inc.
  • The Bach Choir of Bethlehem
  • The Mann Center for the Performing Arts

News Release: The Presser Foundation Announces Capital Support Grants

Posted by on May 2nd, 2017 in News & Updates | 0 comments

May 2, 2017 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The Presser Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of grantees for Capital Support.  These grants, totaling $647,500 this fiscal year, are designated for capital projects of music organizations providing a broad range of classical symphonic, chamber, choral and/or vocal music. Capital projects include the construction of new facilities and the renovation or expansion of existing facilities.

Dr. Jeffrey Cornelius, Chair of the Capital Support Committee commented on these grants, “Awardees of this year’s Capital Support grants were selected from among applications of considerable merit representing a wide range of educational and presenting organizations.  Building and renovation initiatives approved by the Board were judged to be particularly congruent with founder Theodore Presser’s vision.  Applicants established their potential for significant impact on advancing music education, performance, and philanthropy.  We congratulate these organizations on their vision and their contributions to their respective communities.” 

 2016-17 Capital Support Grantees (in alphabetical order)

Bethany College

Cathedral Choir School of Delaware

The Grand Opera House

Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation

Illinois Wesleyan University, Presser Hall*

Kimmel Center, Inc., Academy of Music*

Lebanon Valley College*

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts

Ohio Wesleyan University, Presser Legacy

Settlement Music School

Stetson University, Presser Hall

Temple University, Boyer College of Music and Dance

University of Delaware

*Previous Multi-Year Grantee

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