The current state of the San Antonio Symphony


illustration by Yessenia Lopez

The future of the San Antonio Symphony has been in muddy waters for the past couple of weeks after it lost funding from its major donors: HEB, the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation and the Tobin Endowment.

The board had to scramble to amass support and funding for the symphony. To learn more about this, the Trinitonian interviewed Diane Persellin, Trinity professor of music education and member of the symphony’s board of directors, after the orchestra’s performance on Saturday, Jan. 13.

You helped to spearhead gathering Trinity students to this event, correct?

Diane Persellin: Well, I actually just invited a couple of students to put their heads together and see if we couldn’t get a bunch of students together at the concert to show our support from Trinity, and they just took the ball and rolled with it.

How many students do you think you came to the concert?

DP: I think about 65 that I know of, but there could be more, like maybe 85 to 90.

What do you think of the orchestra’s current lack of funds?

DP: Well, we are very optimistic! We just got some new donors who have emerged in the past week, and we are gaining more city support and Trinity support. Additionally, we are meeting with other donors to see if we can get some more funds. I am on the board, so it’s been kind of a rollercoaster the past couple of weeks. We initially didn’t have enough money to cover payroll, but then more donors came forward so we are much more optimistic now so we can move forward. We also ratified a new contract, so it’s been all good news the past couple of days.

Do you have any specific plans to help continue to get funds right now, or maybe work to increase Trinity involvement?

DP: I want to encourage Trinity students and faculty to come to these concerts and encourage San Antonio to come in general to these concerts. They are fabulous and we have a world-class orchestra here. Just this winter, the Trinity handbell [ensemble] played with them and it was a wonderful experience all around, and we want to share that kind of music making with everyone here.

So could you tell me how the symphony lost some of its funding?

DP: Well, we didn’t exactly lose funding, we just didn’t have a lot to begin with.

OK, so this has been an ongoing problem for the symphony?

DP: Yeah, it’s been a problem for years and years. It’s an ongoing situation since San Antonio hasn’t really backed the symphony as much as it could and since San Antonio doesn’t have a lot of big corporations that would support the symphony like other major cities with symphonies.

But even through all of that, you are feeling more optimistic about the future of the San Antonio Symphony?

DP: I am. Remember that there were three big corporations that backed the symphony September through December: HEB, Kronkosky and Tobin. So they were writing the checks, but then they became concerned about the pension fund so they stopped backing it on Dec. 21, in a very sudden fashion. All three backed away, which left us in shock and without funding, so we then had to step up and figure things out and make some tough decisions at a tough time. But luckily, more donors came through and stepped up and so we are more optimistic about the future of the San Antonio symphony orchestra.

Through what seems a difficult time, the future of the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra seems to be on the right path. Through the joint effort of Trinity support and the leadership of a steady board, this highlight of San Antonio culture can continue to brighten our city with its wonderful tunes.

with reporting by Bobby Watson, news reporter