The Orchestra League is in its 56th year as the support arm of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra. Its purpose, from its inception, has been to serve the orchestra and staff as volunteers in raising funds and acting as advocates for the orchestra and classical music.
Ella Morris, as President of the SBSO Board of Directors, established the Women’s Guild, now known as the League, in 1956. She had in place before that, a Men’s Committee from the orchestra’s Board of Directors who solicited annual monetary contributions. To augment that, Mrs. Morris established the Women’s Guild in 1956 with the sole purpose of annual season ticket renewals and new ticket sales. The ticket teams effectively utilized approximately 110 volunteers each renewal period. The Guild did that for several years adding other activities over time. The main activity, beyond the ticket project, was the Concert Previews preceding each Masterworks Concert. They still are one aspect of our many ongoing activities. Originally they were held in an afternoon tea setting in local homes presenting lectures given by local music academia or well esteemed musicians, sometimes both.
Two decades later, the Guild’s name changed to The Women’s Association of the SBSO, the reason eludes me, as we took on many more volunteer assignments. Our number had grown to about 250 members and our activities changed, it seemed, with each new management team. Our efforts in ticket sales were reduced significantly with the advent of computers and our volunteerism was directed to many other arenas. In the ensuing years, volunteers coordinated and managed The Children’s Concerts (referred to now as Young People’s Discovery Concerts) often bringing in as many as 8000 children in two days, quite possibly for their first ever classical concert in a theatre venue. Opening Night parties for season-ticket holders and contributors were planned and executed, a newsletter was produced each quarter, members often met guest artists at the airport and were their hostesses during the guests’ stays in the city and fruit baskets were delivered to each guest artist. After-Concert Parties were arranged in the performance hall or in homes. Refreshments were provided after the Chamber Concerts, and during orchestra rehearsals, volunteers provided substantial refreshments during rehearsal breaks on designated nights. Fundraising projects became more in demand and labor intensive, ones such as executing SBSO Showhouses, managing Holiday Poinsettia sales, assisting staff at auditions, arranging bus trips to hear other symphony orchestras and assisting staff with massive mailings and the collaboration with the orchestra’s Board of Directors on the annual gala, The Gift of Music.
Another League name change came about in 1994 at which time the Women’s Association became the SBS Orchestra League with an emphasis on inviting men to join the organization. At present we count among our numbers approximately sixty gentleman members, many of whom have become extremely valuable volunteers. The League is always seeking new members and welcomes them in an active capacity, a sustaining capacity or as a family.
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