Symphony rides the ‘Strad bump’

The cash-strapped Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra may have accidentally found a celebrity that could be the rallying force in its campaign to raise $5 million to assure its future survival.

That celebrity is not a charismatic conductor, a musician or a board member. It’s a violin. But not just any violin. It’s the Lipinski Stradivarius that was made in 1715 and has been on loan to the MSO.

The now-famous violin was missing for a few days in February when concertmaster Frank Almond was mugged in a parking lot while leaving a concert. Eventually, three people were arrested for the robbery, and the violin, which has an appraised, insured value of $5 million, was recovered by Milwaukee Police with the assistance of the FBI.

With a little creative help from H. Carl Mueller and Lori Richards of Mueller Communications, the MSO seized the moment. Almond was booked to grant multiple media interviews over several days. It turns out people are really curious to hear what 300 years of history sounds like. Almond played his Stradivarius for every local newscast in town.

At a Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon a few days later, Almond was asked why tighter security measures were not taken with such a valuable commodity. Almond said he never gave it any thought and did not want to attract any more attention to his briefcase carrying the violin.

Almond said the MSO had definitely received a “Strad bump” from the international notoriety about the recovered violin.

The MSO recently announced a $200,000 “finale” challenge grant designed to complete its current fundraising campaign of $5 million.

As part of the challenge grant, new and increased gifts to the MSO will be matched dollar-for-dollar by a grant from an anonymous donor. To date, the MSO has raised $4.8 million.

“The outpouring of support from the Milwaukee community over the past few months has been overwhelming,” said Mark Niehaus, president and executive director of the MSO. “We remain resolute in our fundraising efforts, and we know that the Milwaukee community understands that just like the Stradivarius violin, the MSO is a rare and valuable treasure in our community.”

Since its public appeal for help, the corporate community in Milwaukee has played a significant role in helping the MSO meet its financial goals by pledging $612,000, with the largest donation commitments from Northwestern Mutual Insurance Company Inc., Rockwell Automation Inc. and We Energies.

Foundations in the Milwaukee area also responded generously to the MSO’s campaign with commitments totaling $1.2 million, with the largest donations pledged by The Bradley Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Helen Bader Foundation and the United Performing Arts Fund.

On Dec. 19, UPAF announced a $250,000 challenge grant for new donations to the MSO, which was fulfilled in just over a month with $250,027 from 888 new individual donors, and with additional gifts still arriving.

By fulfilling its $5 million campaign, the MSO will be able to continue its key partnerships with performing arts groups in the Milwaukee area, including the Florentine Opera and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, and remain a cultural beacon for the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin for years to come.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display