Montgomery County

Crowdfunding Campaign, Philanthropist Attempt to Save National Philharmonic

The National Philharmonic is not closing down without a fight.

The orchestra is hosting a crowdfunding campaign in an attempt to prevent its closure, it announced last week.

National Philharmonic violinist and local businessman Jim Kelly has also been making efforts to raise money for the orchestra, using his own money and obtaining cash pledges from others.

The orchestra needs to raise $150,000 by Wednesday if it wants to remain open, the crowdfunding web page reads.

The Philharmonic was prepared to close due to insufficient funding from the Montgomery County government. The county’s Arts and Humanities Council decreased the orchestra’s funding from $270,000 in 2011 to $107,000 in 2019.

The smaller budget made it harder to pay the operation and performance costs that nearly doubled during that same time period. Ticket sales also declined during the 2018-19 season partly because of construction at the Music Center at Strathmore, where the orchestra performs.

The 35-day long government shutdown in January and changes in tax laws concerning charitable contributions also played a part in the loss of funds, the organization said in a statement two weeks ago.


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The Philharmonic tried to cut its performances by 30 percent, and Strathmore offered to reduce its facility fees for the 2019-20 season to cope with the changes. But even that wasn’t enough. 

Just as nearly all hope was lost, the organization launched its public fundraising page.

The campaign lists several of the public services that the Philharmonic provides. These include free tickets to all children between ages 7 and 17, as well as thousands of active military families and veterans every year; wellness music programs at Walter Reed Warrior Café and the Children's Inn at NIH; and fundraising concert efforts for Community Ministries of Rockville and Brookside Gardens.

The Philharmonic also provides musical training through its Summer String Institutes and vocal training through its Summer Chorale institute. The Summer String Institutes also provide students with scholarships.

According to WTOP, violinist and local businessman Jim Kelly had already secured at least $270,000 in cash pledges by last Thursday.

Kelly, the co-owner of Potter Violins, sent an email to members of the National Philharmonic Board of Directors last week.

In that email, he said he was "successful in raising $270,000 in cash pledges (including combined $40,000 from Potter Violins and from my private funds)," which could help the orchestra.

He further said in the email that he identified "approximately $240,000 in credits against the NP FY 2020 for a total package of $510,000."

Kelly has not made any more information about the source of the money public, but he is hosting a meeting Monday night at Potter Violins to discuss details. He did not immediately respond to request for comment.

"I will lay out the details of a possible plan and answer questions," Kelly told WTOP last week. "I hope that other stakeholders will also be in attendance."

Donations to the National Philharmonic through their crowdfunding page will immediately be refunded if the orchestra does not reach its goal.

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