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OAE in NYC – the hidden fundraiser is let loose!

Mon Apr 12 2010

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Now time for some music by Felix Mendelssohn's good friend, Prince Albert (i.e. Queen Victoria's husband).… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…


I love my job at the OAE – but I have what is probably considered by most of the Orchestra as the most boring job of all.  I spend my time writing funding applications and reports, grappling with budgets and dealing with outcomes, demographics, providing evidence etc.

Fundraising event in NYC

NYC Fundraising event

None of this is considered exciting blog material by other people – so I’ve never been let loose on the OAE blog before.  But for the first time, here I am writing a blog about my time in New York with the OAE.

You might think that New York is about as far away from fundraising applications and report as you can get.  Except that the reason I get to go to America is central to my job.  Not only do we have a big American benefit dinner (at Times Square no less!), but we have US foundation contacts, donors and prospects attending the Orchestra’s two Lincoln Center concerts.

Arriving in the US (for my first time ever!) with the Orchestra, I have a short while to get my bearings before having to rustle up a 10 seater taxi come limo to whisk me and members of the Orchestra off to Thomson Reuters’ building at Times Square.  There we join my colleagues Duke and Claire and members of the Orchestra have been rehearsing and setting up our first American benefit.

The event turns out to be a huge success – wonderful food, happy guests and members of the Orchestra performing a range of repertoire from Purcell to Mozart to a rapt audience, some of whom are new to the OAE experience.  The event is introduced by our bassoon player Sally Jackson, who does a fantastic job introducing the Orchestra and each of the players. The guests clearly love the whole experience of hearing about the Orchestra and chatting to the musicians.  What’s more, we’re on the 30th floor, with the breathtaking sight of the heart of Manhattan below us and all around us.  We’re very grateful to Thomson Reuters for inviting us – what an amazing opportunity!

The next day, I take the chance to spend a day researching US foundations at the amazing Foundation Center further down town.  We don’t have anything like this kind of resource in the UK and I can’t access this information in the UK without paying an annual fee.  The staff are very helpful and patient in answering my questions.  I don’t think they get visitors from UK orchestras every day of the week and are rather intrigued by what I’m up to.

Then back to the Lincoln Center to welcome our American Friends and guests to the concert for the first of our two Beethoven symphony concerts – memorable and visceral performances of 5 symphonies over two evenings.  My colleague Megan Russell and one of our violinists Cathy Weiss have both written about the concerts and whole audience reaction.  I shall never forget those concerts.  The sound is truly amazing in Alice Tully Hall – the brass sounds so bright and Ivan Fischer  brings out every nuance so clearly and with such immediacy – at the end of Beethoven’s 5th, the audience erupts and are on their feet.  What a coup!

The thing that strikes me most about our visit is how many people know about the OAE and love us, even in a huge city like New York where so much is going on.  On the desk at the Lincoln Center I strike a conversation with a couple from Boston – “The OAE is our favourite orchestra,” they tell me “and we’ve never experienced the orchestra live before.”  I see them again in the interval and they are beside themselves with excitement.  They tell me that they are already planning to book to see the Orchestra’s next Lincoln Center appearances next March.

Days later, my husband and I am on a bus and we are giving away our Englishness by getting confused about whether or not to sit in the priority seating.  As a result we get chatting to a couple and (can you believe it?), they know all about the OAE and attended our performance in the Mostly Mozart festival last August.  They take us under our wing and make sure that we know all the inside New York places to go….

New York may be a big city and the OAE may only go there for a few days each year, but we are clearly cherished and respected by the Americans.  We look forward to our return to New York next spring.

Clare Norburn, Development Manager, Trusts and Foundations

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