Those Red-Letter Days

In the Sixties and Seventies, everybody got a variety show. Bob Hope. Tom Jones. Andy Williams. Bing Crosby. Bobby Darin. Johnny Cash. Every week, the celebrity host rolled out the red carpet for the singers, actors and comics of the day.  And, every week, the television audience was invited to a fabulous celebrity party. For me, some of the best parties were the holiday specials.

I can still remember Dean and Frank belting out “It’s a Marshmallow World” in the opening number of Christmas with The Martins and Sinatras in 1967.  And, every year, I watch the Judy Garland Christmas Show on YouTube for another chance to spend an “informal evening” in the legend’s “living room” with her family and friends. Seriously, even in the 1960s, who hung around the house in a full-length, fur-trimmed gown? But, when that pretend-doorbell rings and Liza Minnelli, Jack Cassidy and Mel Tormé walk onto the pretend-living-room set, I’m always willing to suspend disbelief and join them for an hour of camaraderie and great music. 

That’s why I love the Phil. Every year, we throw six memorable parties, red-letter days that add a punch of musical color to our lives.  And, for the past 25 seasons, we’ve been lucky to have Steven Karidoyanes help us paint the town red.  Year after year, our remarkably talented Music Director brings great music and great musicians to the Phil stage. In this season alone, you’ll hear one of the largest Phil orchestras ever as they take on Mahler’s Titan in March.

I also love never knowing who will show up at each Phil fest.  A red-hot pianist.  A violin prodigy.  A handful of shining, Broadway stars. Why, even the 6th Grade Chorus has been known to pop in from time to time and give us a burst of local color. But no matter who visits, I always know I’m going to have a great time. Every time. It’s the Phil!

These larger-than-life concerts are part of our everyday, smaller-town lives because of you. Every season, we need to raise $530,000 to finance six sensational shows, and every year I need to ask for your help.  Ticket sale are strong, but like all nonprofit, professional orchestras, ticket sales only cover a portion of production costs.  And, like all nonprofit, professional orchestras, we rely on donations to bridge the gap.  Without your support, we wouldn’t be able to roll out a little red doormat much less the grand red carpet we do.

So, please continue to donate generously to the Phil. Please continue to help us turn Memorial Hall into our “living room,” where we can listen to live symphonic music with family and friends. Please continue to help us host the best musical entertainment the South Shore has ever seen. Quite simply, the Phil – our Phil – wouldn’t be the same without you.

The Big Bang Theory!

The other night I was thinking about famous couples I’d like to have over for a dinner party. JFK and Jackie made the list, so did Harry and Meghan. But the couple I thought would be the biggest hit at my virtual bash was Sheldon Cooper and Amy Farrah Fowler from CBSs’ The Big Bang Theory. The socially awkward theoretical physicist and the needy, nerdy neurologist have not only had the quirkiest courtship in television history, they’ve also had the funniest. That’s the stuff that sparks dinner conversations.

I love the Fun with Flags episodes the most. The couple’s low-budget YouTube podcast is their offbeat forum to share their love for vexillology. Although they probably have a fan base of one, nothing curbs their flag enthusiasm. In the Bavarian flag episode, Sheldon dressed in lederhosen, while Amy showed up as a giant pretzel. In a salute to Colonial America, Sheldon portrayed a befuddled Betsy Ross. When they went Down Under, Amy hopped into the podcast in a Kangaroo suit and pulled the Australian flag out of her pouch. The time Fun with Flags wasn’t so fun was when Sheldon set up a giant domino display for a 4th of July flag spectacular and found out Amy hadn’t hit the record button.

The Phil has its own spectacular 4th of July, celebration. Music. Fireworks. Special guests. Thousands of new and old Phil fans fill the waterfront. Talk about a domino effect! This fabulous free-for-all kicks off the season with a very big bang indeed.

Like Sheldon and Amy, we put a lot of thought and enthusiasm into our “musical podcast.” However, this isn’t a low-budget production. It costs about $50,000 to produce; the bulk of the expenses relate to hiring the musicians, staging, sound, bus transport--and portable potties! (If 55 musicians had to queue up for public restrooms during intermission, they’d never make it back for the second act!) The free event is made possible by two funds that have been around for a long time: the Esther & Alcide Ruffini Charitable Trust and the James Spooner Trust. Both trusts mandate the revenue must be used to present free concerts for the people of Plymouth. (Talk about a musical legacy!)

For years, the funds produced enough income for the Phil to perform every other year. In 2015, we approached the Town of Plymouth’s Visitors Services Board and asked for funding to make live symphonic music part of every Independence Day celebration. The VSB said absolutely yes! and has funded the shortfall ever since. Thanks to these Phil supporters, this is our fourth year in a row making music along the waterfront. And, if our funding continues, we’ll celebrate the holiday together every year to come.

This is also our 103rd season of making music in the concert hall and the start of another big celebration: Steven Karidoyanes' Silver Anniversary on the Phil podium. Knowing what he’s got planned, I’ve come up with my own big bang theory: the musical fireworks are just beginning!

From the Shark Tank to the Think Tank

My kindergarten teacher, Miss Randall, had an inexhaustible supply of Kleenex, crayons and Thinking Caps. The tissues were in her top, right-hand desk drawer; the Crayolas were in big bins on the bookshelf. But, although I looked high and low, I never found those imaginary hats she made us put on when it was time for the Kindergarten Think Tank.

Since our last concert, I've been hanging out in my own little Think Tank. Broadway, Our Way was a BLAST! So was the entire season. If I could rewind every concert and play it over again, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I'm sure you would, too. Think about it. The Phil's been around for over 100 years, and it just keeps getting better. Because of you!

Way back in October, we put our toes in the Shark Tank together. In my imaginary pitch to the country's most ruthless TV investors, I told them we need $530,000 on top of ticket sales every year to just break even. I also boldly asserted our only business was to make people happy. Well, that didn't create a feeding frenzy among the Sharks, but it made perfect sense to you. Thank you!

Throughout the season, I've tried to tell you one thing: you're not just one of the Phil's biggest fans. You're one of the Phil's investors. You're one of the Phil's influencers. You're one of the Phil's superheroes. You are part of a wonderful Think Tank that produces more than eight phenomenal concerts and brings incredible experiences into the community. Every single year. Because music matters.

Here's some more good news. We've almost reached our Annual Fund goal for last season, but we still need your support. Please consider making a gift to the Phil before June 30. These gifts are needed to offset the cost of the outgoing season, which is extremely important because we've already rolled out our next.

And what a season it will be. We're using every color in our orchestral palette to celebrate Steven Karidoyanes' 25th year as conductor of the Phil, starting with the season opener, Let's Paint the Town Silver, to the grand finale, Music of the Knights. You'll hear more of the world's greatest music. You'll meet more incredible guest stars. And, we'll have more fun than ever making music together. Why, we've even added a second Spring Pops performance to meet the demand! Now, what do you think about that?!

What's Your Superpower?

I grew up with five superheroes: five boisterous brothers who had me totally convinced they could protect all the kids in our Milwaukee neighborhood — and save the entire planet if necessary. Tom, the oldest, was our Batman: super smart, super analytical and super wealthy like his alter ego Bruce Wayne. Back then, he always saved most of his allowance; today he’s a Logistics Manager. Todd, aka Spiderman, loved rock-climbing, web-slinging and using his Spidey-sense to alert us when my mom and dad were about to catch us doing something we shouldn’t be doing. Sweet, shy Myles came alive as the Green Lantern, drawing his superpowers from a tin-foil ring and a C cell battery he took out of my dad’s radio. Not surprisingly, he’s an engineer. And, Terry, who somehow morphed from the drummer in a rock band to a church pastor, spent his early years entertaining us as the Hulk. I’m still trying to figure all that out. And then, there’s my brother Mark, who was always Superman, the mighty man of steel with super strength, super speed, x-ray vision and the power of flight. Except for that one little issue with kryptonite, Superman was pretty invincible. And that’s how I felt about Mark as a little kid, and how I feel about him now. He’s watched out for me my entire life, protecting me from childhood bullies, “rescuing” me whenever my rickety ol’ Honda Civic broke down in high school, and throwing me a big-brother lifeline whenever I had a problem as an adult. Once, he achieved super, superhero status when he came upon a car accident and actually pulled a man out of a burning car.

Yes, from the very beginning, my brothers banded together to form a Justice League of their own. And, for the most part, they used their super powers for good (Remember, they were a pack of boys, not angels). Anyway, that got me thinking about the Phil. We have a pretty good Justice League of our own going on here. Not to fight bad guys. But to preserve and promote what we value: live symphonic music. And it’s no big Justice League secret why we do it. We do it because we know that music has a super power all its own. It makes us happy. There is absolutely no way we could produce six fabulous concerts each year without working together. There is absolutely no way we could stage a free waterfront concert on the 4th of July without joining forces.

There is absolutely no way we could provide scholarships to talented young musicians without combining our super powers to make it happen. We couldn’t accomplish any of this for a single year — much less the 100+ years we’ve been bringing incredible musical experiences to the people in our South Shore community — without banding together. Each of us has a super power. And, we have to unleash it every single year to make the magic happen. Again. And again. And again. Some buy tickets or an ad in the program. Others attend the gala or compete in the golf tournament. Still others sponsor a concert, an event, or a musician. We’re all needed to power up the music in and out of the concert hall. So far, we have met 69% of our fundraising goal for the year. We have three short months to close the gap. While donations are pretty much on track with past years, I don’t mind telling you that the final quarter is always a bit unnerving.

This is the homestretch, and we need everyone’s support now more than ever. Please, continue to be a superhero and make a gift today. What we’re doing matters. It matters to us individually and to the thousands of people we impact each year with our super power: music.

The Sky's the Limit

I have a big list of places I want to visit. I have another list of places I’ll probably never get to see. Those with restricted access. Places that are top secret, very hush-hush. Super exclusive. Super cool. Seriously off-limits.

Like the White House Situation Room, Nevada’s Area 51, or the Coca Cola Vault in Atlanta which guards the century-plus-old, secret formula to “the real thing.” Fort Knox in Kentucky is also a no-go. To check out the US gold bullion reserve and other national treasures, you’d have to break a security perimeter defended by 40,000 soldiers and a stream of attack helicopters. James Bond-ish? You bet! So is England’s RAF Menwith Hill, believed to be the biggest electronic monitoring, intelligence-gathering station in the world.

And, when you’re hanging out with the Brits, don’t expect an invitation to White’s Gentlemen’s Club. London’s oldest and most exclusive club is reserved for bigwigs and royals who love high-stakes betting games. The most famous involved a 3,000-pound wager to see which raindrop would slide to the bottom of the window first. And, just so you know, the Queen’s bedroom in Buckingham Palace is equally hard to access—especially after a 1982 security breach.

The Vatican Secret Archives? Not without the right credentials. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway? Doubtful. Hardly anyone has access to the vault that protects seeds from all over the world in the event of a global catastrophe. In 1963, the government shut down the Lascaux Caves in France after a mysterious fungus threatened the ancient wall paintings. And, only a priest or priestess of the Imperial Family can visit Japan’s Ise Grand Shrine, constructed to honor the sun goddess. Every twenty years, it’s demolished and rebuilt in celebration of rebirth.

The most restricted place of all is probably Moscow’s Metro-2; it’s so secret no one is 100-percent sure it even exists. The underground transportation system was allegedly constructed under Stalin’s reign and parallels the public metro. A few claim to have built it; a few more claim to have seen it. Wouldn’t you like to be one of them?

Well, enough about the fascinating places we’ll never see. Life’s much better without restrictions, when nothing is off-limits—like the Phil’s annual gala next month. Since, we’ve been taking off in new directions all year, we decided to land this party somewhere decidedly different: inside a hangar at the Plymouth airport! Cool cocktails, fancy food from around the world, very live music and travel-themed auction items make this the go-to get-together of the season.

It’s also a serious fundraiser. Proceeds from the gala fuel the Phil’s operating budget. Last year, we raised over $72,000 in unrestricted funds (see how I circled back to this?) to meet our annual expenses not covered by grants, sponsorships or restricted gifts. I’m talking about important things like rent, utilities, insurance and salaries. This is a more-the-merrier kind of event in more ways than one. We plan to raise the bar…and have one helluva time doing it!

So, get your ticket, get on board, and get ready to party. After all, how many chances do you get to hang out in a hangar and bid on several once-in-a-lifetime experiences to support the Phil? Seriously, the sky’s the limit when it comes to Phil fun. And, like Vegas, what happens in the hangar, stays in the hanger.

COME FLY WITH US!
The Phil's Annual Fundraising Gala
Saturday, April 21, 6-11 pm ◾ Pro Airways Hangar at Plymouth Airport
Oh, the places you'll go and the things you'll do when you bid on these fabulous auction items. Can't come? You can still join the fun. Simply let us know you want a proxy bidder by April 20 and tell us your maximum bid. Your proxy will bid in your place. Or, if you prefer, your proxy will call you to place your bids live over the phone. Call 508.746.8008 for details.

8-DAY VIKING RIVER CRUISE FOR TWO

Value $7,298
Donated by Viking Cruises and Wendy Cushing, Travel Concierge
Minimum Bid: $2,500

Choose one of three fabulous 8-day Viking River Cruises.
◾ Explore castles and cathedrals from Amsterdam, the Netherlands to Basel, Switzerland.
◾ Sail to charming cities and villages from Budapest, Hungary to Nuremberg, Germany.
◾ Cruise to enchanting destinations from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hungary.
Airfare, transfers, optional shore excursions and land extensions are not included and are available for purchase at regular brochure fare. Not transferable and may not be exchanged for cash. Cannot be combined with other promotions. Stateroom upgrade is available for purchase at prevailing rates subject to availability. Winner is responsible for any applicable tax and port charge. Valid on available embarkations for 2018/19 only. Reservations are only accepted within 120 days of departure. Space per sailing is limited and yield controlled. Not applicable for Viking Tours or other Viking products including Viking Ocean. Offer valid for river cruise only. Other restrictions may apply.

INTERNATIONALLY THEMED COCKTAIL PARTY FOR 20 OR DINNER FOR 8-10 IN A PRIVATE HANGAR AT PLYMOUTH AIRPORT

Value: Priceless
Donated by Tasteful Adventures and Jason Wolfson
Minimum Bid: $1,000

Treat your friends to a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a private, fully-outfitted airplane hangar (featured in Boston Common Magazine!). Tasteful Adventures will provide an onsite cook and service for up to 20 guests for a cocktail party or a dinner for 8-10 guests. They'll work with you to create an internationally-inspired and seasonal menu. (Final menu at discretion of Tasteful Adventures.) To be scheduled at a mutually agreeable time between the winner, Jason Wolfson, and Tasteful Adventures.

CLUB SEATS AT A PATRIOTS GAME

Value: $4,800
Donated by: Steve and Deb Bowen
Minimum Bid: $1,000

Four front row Putnam Club seats for a Patriots 2018 season game at Gillette Stadium! Choose your game from one of the three dates to be announced at the auction. Enjoy pregame club offerings and warm up anytime during a chilly game. No worries about the weather. The club opens two hours pregame so enjoy yourself in comfort! Includes two premium parking spaces.

GUEST CONDUCTOR AT A PHIL HOLIDAY POPS CONCERT

Value: Priceless
Donor: the Phil
Minimum Bid: $500

The lights dim, the conductor approaches the podium and...it's YOU! This thrill of a lifetime can be yours. Conduct the Phil at one of our most popular concerts, Holiday Pops on December 8 or 9, 2018. This item includes two premium seats to the concert and conducting lessons with Music Director Steven Karidoyanes. Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring, ting, tingling too. Imagine the bragging rights after your incredible performance.

GREEK DINNER FOR 8 IN YOUR HOME PREPARED BY STEVEN AND AMY KARIDOYANES

Value: Priceless
Donated by: Steven and Amy Karidoyanes
Minimum Bid: $500

You know our Steven K. is multi-talented, but did you know he is also a fantastic cook? Revel in Greek culinary delight as Steven and his fabulous wife Amy prepare an authentic Greek dinner for you and seven guests in your home. From appetizers to dessert, you will enjoy genuine Greek cuisine--including Steven's famous moussaka! You provide the beverages of your choice, and Steven and Amy will do the rest. The dinner to be scheduled on a mutually agreeable date and redeemed by April 30, 2019.

BE THE GUEST WHIP AT THE PHIL'S HOLIDAY CONCERT

Value: Priceless
Donor: The Phil and Paul Gross
Minimum Bid: $500

Giddy yap, giddy yap, giddy yap let's go! Here is your chance to be an orchestra musician at the Holiday Pops concert on December 8 or 9, 2018. Be part of the percussion section and crack the whip during Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride." The Phil's principal percussionist Paul Gross will be your coach and meet with you in advance of the concert for training. This item includes two premium seats to the concert. Don't just come to Holiday Pops, be part of it!

RED SOX TICKETS AND MORE!

Value: $950
Donor: Bill and Judy Gagnon
Minimum Bid: $350

Two great seats for the Red Sox game in the State Street Pavilion, Section 2. But wait - there's so much more! Package also includes $250 gift card for hotels.com, $150 Island Creek Oyster Bar gift card and a $50 Uber gift card.

Buy tickets to the Gala

 

The Super Long Way to Carnegie Hall

I’m a pretty determined person. I’ve been to a lot of cool places (Australia, Singapore and Italy), done a lot of cool things (met Yo-Yo Ma, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, got my motorcycle license), and crossed every single one of them off my very hot bucket list. I’m also pretty good about not letting something I really want to do stay on the list too long. That’s why it’s been driving me crazy that “See Something at Carnegie Hall” has been on the list since 5th grade. Before there was an official list. Before I even knew what the “bucket” part of bucket list meant.

I’ve wanted to go to Carnegie Hall since 1972. That was the year my big brother Mark told me Cat Stevens, Carly Simon, Elton John and Carole King would be performing there in June. Okay. I was eleven, lived in Milwaukee and had cash-flow and transportation issues to overcome, but I was seriously star-struck, and Carnegie Hall was now on my musical radar.

Now, Carnegie Hall has about 100 performances per year. And, I haven’t seen the inside of my 5th grade classroom for forty-something years. That means, I’ve missed about 5,000 performances. Oh, I’ve been to New York many times. And, each time, I’ve gone with every intention of “catching something” (anything!) at Carnegie Hall. But somehow, I have never gotten closer to this world-famous venue than a late-night drive-by in a smelly yellow taxicab on an incredibly cold winter’s night. Until last year. I finally got to Carnegie Hall, and it was a life-changing experience.

The orchestra performed Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony and Aaron Copland’s, Bought Me a Cat, accompanied by 2,000 singing, recorder-playing, elementary school kids from the NYC school system. The kids had all participated in The Weill Music Institute’s Link Up, a year-long, in-school, interactive music program for third, fourth and fifth graders, which culminated in a live musical performance with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall. They were all having the time of their lives. Laughing. High-fiving. Fist-bumping. Clapping. Cheering. Music-making. It was an incredible ode to joy-- one I will never forget. And, I won’t have to.

Thanks to a generous donation from Diane and Gary Glick, we are bringing this award-winning program from Carnegie Hall to the South Shore. This month, the Phil will become one of 100 communities across the country—and the world—to give this musical gift to our children. Our kids will not only study great music in their music classes, they will make great music with their classmates, and—on one magical day, they will be part of the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra.

Watch this short video with the Columbus Symphony. I can’t think of a better gift for our children. I can’t think of a better way to honor our mission to present programs that nurture a life-long appreciation of music. And, I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year right. With music.

Into the Shark Tank

I can’t get enough of ABC’s Shark Tank. Every week, a new group of entrepreneurs has roughly ten minutes to convince five self-made, multi-millionaires to invest in their businesses. No pressure there, right? Well, that got me thinking. What if I asked the Sharks to fund the Phil? Hmmm. Maybe? Probably not. Although it would definitely be worth a shot, I’m pretty sure my pitch would not cause a feeding frenzy among America’s most ruthless investors.

KIM: Hi, I’m Kim Corben. I’m seeking $530,000 to produce the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra’s upcoming concert season.
SHARK 1: Do you have proof of concept?
KIM: Well, we’ve been bringing music to the community for over a hundred years, so we’re pretty sure it’s a good idea.
SHARK 2: What are your projected sales for the year?
KIM: Ticket sales will be about $325,000.
SHARK 3: What do you hope to clear from that?
KIM: Nothing. Ticket sales only cover musician and production costs.
SHARK 3: So, you’re in the red every year.
KIM: Yup. Every year.
SHARK 4: Raise ticket prices.
KIM: Can’t. We want to keep the arts accessible to everyone.
SHARK 5: Cut expenses. Do you really need all those musicians?
KIM: Yes. We really do. It’s an orchestra. Not a quartet.
SHARK 2: How are you going to make up the difference?
KIM: From investors. That’s why I’m here. In the Tank.
SHARK 1: What percentage of equity are you willing to give me?
KIM: None. The Phil belongs to the community.
SHARK 1: So, how do I get my money back?
KIM: You don’t.
SHARK 1: I don’t make any money?
KIM: No, you make people happy.
SHARK 1: I’m not in the business of making people happy.
KIM: Really? It’s all we do.

When you put it like this, our funding scenario does sound a bit out-there. And, I don’t mind telling you that when I ask you to not only purchase tickets but to collectively invest an additional $530,000 every season, it’s more than a little nerve-wracking – especially at the start of the season when we’re the furthest from our goal. But, I also don’t mind telling you this: This is how successful, nonprofit, professional orchestras work. Our ticket sales are strong. We are an excellent steward of our resources. Sixty-percent of our operating budget goes directly to paying our musicians and producing phenomenal concert experiences. And, without a shadow of a doubt, the Phil brings the best live entertainment to the South Shore community. Every year. We also bring incredible and innovative musical opportunities for children. Period.

Thank goodness, we don’t need to rely on Sharks. You get it. Intuitively. Without explanation. (With just a gentle reminder, or two). You are one of our investors because music matters. It’s something you can’t live without; it’s something you want everyone in our community to share. 

So, c’mon. Let’s make some music together. Please renew your previous gift to the Phil this season or become a first-time investor in this extraordinary organization!

I’ll touch base with you frequently throughout the year to share more thoughts and show you how your support impacts the community in ways you may not have known. I also want to hear what’s on your mind. So, catch me after a concert.  Meet me at a soirée. Send me an email. I’m easy to find… just a phone call away.

Kim Corben
Executive Director