Since 1944, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic has always been in relationships.
But over the years, some of those relationships have fizzled out, and the organization has found it means much more to be just friends.
For 11 years, 81-year-old Jayne Van Winkle has been a member of the Philharmonic Friends, an organization committed to supporting the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and Youth Symphony through scholarships, hospitality and occasional snacks for the Friday rehearsal before each Masterworks concert.
I like to stay busy. A lot of the musicians have part-time jobs on Fridays and don’t have a lot of time to eat dinner before rehearsals, Van Winkle says. I think they appreciate us, and we appreciate them.
The Fort Wayne Philharmonic will close its Masterworks season Saturday with Love’s Finale, which highlights the power of love to overcome all odds.
The concert features Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 6. Using fate as a character, the performance begins hopeful with a piece representative of Mahler’s wife, Alma, a young Viennese socialite who was well-known for her intellect and beauty. However, by the last movement of the piece, the music becomes darker; signified by the three hammer blows of fate.
As a self-obsessed composer, Mahler actually took out the last hammer blow after losing his oldest daughter to scarlet fever, resigning as the head of the Vienna Court Opera and being diagnosed with a terminal heart disease all in one year after the symphony premiered. He believed the three misfortunes symbolized the three hammer blows of fate – the last hammer blow would be his death.
Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 is incredibly intense, enormously personal piece of music, Maestro Andrew Constantine says. It’s all very convoluted, and there’s some superstition involved.
Following the performance, the Friends will be hosting a closing night dinner giving participants a chance to pledge a donation to the scholarship and education funds.
Jill Nussel, president of the Philharmonic Friends, says the organization spends $25,000 a year through scholarships and education funding to promote and sustain young talent.
Nobody measures the quality of a city by how many paved roads you have, Nussel says. It’s important for us to have a professional orchestra in our community.
In 2012, the Friends spent $11,500 to cover the cost of music lessons for 56 young musicians through its music lessons scholarship. Currently, the Friends are lending 50 instruments at a low-cost to young musicians through their instrument loan program. Fees are waived for students who qualify for their school lunch program.
The group also provides the prize money for the first- and second-place winners in the Young Artist Competition.
This year, the Friends have begun a new fellowship program, in which the person nominated will receive money for one year to continue their professional development as they perform for the Philharmonic. The fellow will be announced at the closing dinner Saturday.
I think it’s important that we recognize the talent in the orchestra, Nussel says. We think it’s important because it will improve the Philharmonic and better the community as a whole.
As vice president of hospitality, Van Winkle volunteers to drive guest musicians to and from the airport, and she’s involved with the Adopt a Musician program that matches a member with an individual musician. The Friends include their musicians in birthdays and holiday celebrations. During the offseason, Van Winkle is an usher during the Philharmonic’s summer series at Foellinger Theatre. She says that joining the Friends brought something new to her life.
One of my neighbors was active in the Friends and she asked if I would like to join. I was retired, and I’m a widow, and I was looking for something to do, Van Winkle says. I’ve been happy ever after.
Constantine says the season has gone fantastically well and he has been thrilled with the orchestra’s performance. He says he believes the relationship the Friends share with musicians continue to better the orchestra.
They genuinely keep the name of the Philharmonic in front of as many people as possible, Constantine says. I admire enormously their dedication and love for the Philharmonic. It would be a worse place if we didn’t have them in our corner supporting us with all the work they do.