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By Cole Epley - Memphis Business Journal -
Since its inception four years ago, the Music Resource Center at the Memphis Music Foundation has aided scores of emerging musicians from genres across the board, from hip-hop to rock ’n’ roll to vocal jazz. But one of its most intriguing success stories hinges on classical music.
Memphis Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Susanna Perry Gilmore can speak to that as well as anyone. After all, the idea for the innovative and ever-popular Opus One series, which this year has paired the symphony with local rapper Al Kapone and Latin jazz vocalist Marcela Pinilla, is partly her brainchild.
The series is also part of the reason the symphony has already matched its overall contributions from last year — $2.5 million — with two and a half months left in the fiscal year.
Vice president of patron engagement Nicki Inman expects the organization’s contributions to grow by an additional 10 percent by the conclusion of the fiscal year. If 30 percent growth in contributions over two years is not enough evidence of the organization’s newfound vitality, consider that the symphony sold out two of its performances in 2010. It has sold out six this year and has three major concerts left to play, one of which is a May 3 Opus One series collaboration with Memphis rockers Lucero.
With the help of the Music Resource Center, what started as a lunch hour revelation three and a half years ago has become one of the symphony’s most popular draws, Gilmore says.
“(In 2008) the symphony’s staff and budget was facing a massive reduction in capacity because of the economy’s bottoming out,” she says. “We were bemoaning the fact that we had fewer concerts to play, yet we were on salary, sort of sitting around not doing as much as we would have liked.”