Pittsburgh Symphony holds concert to raise funds for area schools

Published Jan 20, 2014 at 10:21 am (Updated Jan 20, 2014 at 10:21 am)

On Feb. 1, South Hills residents will have the opportunity to hear world renowned musicians without leaving the area, when musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra perform in concert at the Upper St. Clair High School Performing Arts Center. Conducted by the PSO’s music director, Manfred Honeck, with feature soloists Lorna McGhee on flute and George Vosburgh on trumpet, the concert will include works of Bach, Haydn, Strauss, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.

The concert at Upper St. Clair is the second in a series of three concerts to benefit the recently established “PSO Musicians Care” fund, a fund of the Pittsburgh Foundation. Money raised will be used to help provide grants to southwestern Pennsylvania public school music programs for the repair and purchase of musical instruments, the transport of students to Heinz Hall for the PSO’s education concert series, and scholarships for young musicians interested in a career in music.

“Pittsburgh is a small community to have an orchestra the level of the Pittsburgh Symphony,” said Neal Berntsen, trumpet player in the PSO. “We are blown away with the community support of the orchestra.”

Cuts in arts budgets of many local school districts have left no money for field trips for concerts, or even the repair of instruments. Berntsen said that after seeing many empty seats at the orchestra’s free children’s concerts, the musicians wanted to try to help in some way and came up with the idea of doing concert fundraisers.

Jim Bennett, USC Theatre manager, past president of the Community Foundation, and retired fine and performing arts curriculum leader for the USC School District, said that as school budgets get tighter and tighter, many times arts feel the pinch, especially with field trips. “Many kids don’t get to see the symphony because there’s no money for field trips,” said Bennett.

Berntsen said the musicians are building an endowment administered by the Pittsburgh Foundation, which recently donated $10,000 to the cause, to help school districts in need.

All money raised from the concert goes directly to the PSO Musicians Care Fund. Maestro Honeck, along with the soloists, stagehands and all of the musicians of the PSO, are donating their time and talents for this cause, and the Community Foundation of Upper St. Clair, which is hosting the event, is underwriting the cost of renting the facility.

The musicians’ first concert, held in Squirrel Hill, generated more than $15,000, and some of the money is already going to local schools. Washington High School will receive a grant for instrument repair at the concert, and Berntsen said the Wilkinsburg School District will also receive funds. A third concert to be held in the North Hills is also planned.

“We’re going to continue raising money,” said Berntsen, “and continue to give it away.”

The second PSO Musicians Care Fund concert, hosted by the Community Foundation of Upper St. Clair, will take place at 8 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Upper St. Clair High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased at the door, or at community.pittsburghfoundation.org/psoconcert, where you can get more information about the event.

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