I’m a real believer in charitable contributions as a contemplative act done in the privacy of my own home. I don’t like being asked to donate where I shop. I really get irked when asked if I’d like to round up my purchase or give a buck at the checkout counter. It has nothing to do with the cause; it’s just that I don’t like to have to make a decision to support someone else’s cause on the spot. I decided a long time ago that I’d rather concentrate my giving where I have a strong affiliation. That’s how I came to choose my music charity picks for 2019.
This year, I chose four music charities. I do give elsewhere, but as a musician, I naturally feel more strongly about this area of giving. I publish these each year in case you’re like me and want to have some ideas about organizations that make a difference in music. The two local groups are too small to be ranked by Charity Navigator, so the links provided are directly to the group’s Website. I believe them to be well-run and trustworthy enough that I’ve decided to contribute. The other two groups have the highest four-star rating from Charity Navigator, which is my go-to Website when researching any charity. The links are to their Website in those cases.
My Picks – Local
Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra (APO) – This group performs chamber and symphonic music in the Bentonville community. Plus, it provides musical training to youth through its youth orchestra, APYO. The APYO is composed of 4 string and 2 wind ensembles, allowing it to offer programs to a wide age-range of school-aged children. I have a biased interest in APO, since they hired me to collaborate with cellist Allison Eldridge earlier this year. Plus, I have three piano students who participate in APYO.
Even if I didn’t have that personal affiliation, I would be eager to support them since they embody the total package of performance and education that every modern orchestra should encompass. We need to keep classical music relevant for future generations, and we can’t do that without providing opportunities for our youth like this. For someone who loves classical music, this choice is a no brainer!
Opera in the Ozarks (OIO) – This organization provides the perfect vocal complement to APO! OIO has been giving back to Northwest Arkansas since 1950! Based in Eureka Springs, OIO, and its parent organization, the Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony, presents summer opera during June and July using a pool of 50 talented young singers in an apprentice program. It offers three full-length operas in a rotation, and even offers residents of NW Arkansas a discount for attending on opening night.
My Picks – National
The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation – Founded by the composer of the film score for the 1990s movie, this Los Angeles-based charity provides musical instruments to under-funded public school programs.
Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) – MPR is a local NPR affiliate in its home state, but that’s not why I support them. It’s a hugely important national producer of music content benefiting radio listeners throughout the U.S. I’m most grateful that they continue to support Pipedreams, a long-running weekly program broadcasting organ music from around the world. They also produce a smattering of wider-interest music programming, such as Performance Today and Live from Here, the successor to Prairie Home Companion. They also produce many special Christmas/New Year programs for many local NPR affiliates. My favorites are the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Cambridge and the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concert.
A Curious Omission
I don’t want to start an anti-charity list, but I feel I must speak out. It might seem to be a very odd choice to include a public radio station in Minnesota, but not list our local one here in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I like our local NPR station for its news and comedy programming, but I can’t include it in my music charity picks for 2019.
Back in 2010, when I arrived in NW Arkansas, the local NPR station had a nice balance of news programming and classical music. Over the years, that has drastically changed. Performance Today, Live from Here, and Pipedreams were removed. More recently, locally-produced classical programming was eliminated. What’s left? Just a ton of canned programming, including nine hours most evenings of Through the Night with Peter Van de Graaff.
Just this month, the station snuffed out one remaining point of light: The live Metropolitan Opera weekly broadcasts on their FM signal. They are now available only via streaming. That’s okay if you’re at home, and intentionally want to listen. However, if I’m in my car, I’m out of luck. Same thing for any motorist driving through our area on I-49. Whether you like opera or just support good music classical programming in general, you’re not going to find it on the FM dial in NW Arkansas, except in the overnight hours.