True Concord Voices & Orchestra landed a $500,000 gift from Dorothy Dyer Vanek that will allow them to pursue one of the group’s principal goals: commissioning and recording new works.
The gift will be spread over the next five years in $100,000 increments, said True Concord founder and music director Eric Holtan. The goal is to commission one new work and release one new CD a year.
The gift brings to a total nearly a million dollars in support since 2006 from Vanek, an ardent donor and cheerleader of True Concord, Tucson Symphony Orchestra and the volunteer Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra.
Vanek was the driving financial force behind True Concord’s 2016 critically acclaimed, Grammy-winning CD “Far In the Heavens — Choral Music Of Stephen Paulus.” The recording won the Grammy for Contemporary Classical Composition last year for Paulus’ “Prayers and Remembrances,” a piece the group commissioned from the late composer. Vanek paid Paulus’s $50,000 commissioning fee, sponsored $95,000 of the recording costs and gave $100,000 to send True Concord to New York City to perform at Lincoln Center on Sept. 11, 2015. She also has contributed annually to the group.
“I thought it would be a wonderful project that they could do,” Vanek said last week of the commissioning and recording project. “They discovered that they can do it. When we did the Paulus event we brought things together, but they also found out that they were capable of doing that. They won the Grammy. It was quite a thrill to win.”
“This has been in our strategic plan to do more recordings, but this is beyond our wildest dreams, obviously,” said True Concord Board of Directors Chairman Andrew Watson. “We look to do recordings and find a way to do them when we could, but our strategic plan has not been that specific. It is now. We plan to do one a year now.”
Holtan said the 90-year-old Vanek’s gift goes far beyond just allowing True Concord to realize an organizational goal.
“It fulfills the group’s mission of creating experiences and music that enriches people’s lives,” he said, something immediately out of reach without Vanek’s generosity. “That’s what we’re about. We feel that we are an organization that has something special to share as far as the quality of our artistic product. We learned through the Paulus CD that our music has impact. Our CD has been played on radio nationally. It’s affirmation that people respond to it in Tucson and well beyond.
“Music has the power to feed hungry souls,” Holtan added. “Music has the power to impact people’s lives; that’s why I’m in this business and that is why people like Dorothy support what we do. That is the ultimate.”
True Concord already has commissioned Green Valley composer Gerald Near, a widely commissioned composer of church music, for its first project. Near is writing a 30-minute cantata based on poems by 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson. Holtan said the work will premier in the 2017-18 season and will be recorded next year.
Vanek has supported Tucson classical music since she and her late husband Robert moved to Tucson in the 1990s. When her husband, a retired Pan American World Airways executive, died in 2001, Vanek increased her giving, expanding from the TSO, which is the only group she and her husband supported at the time, to include annual donations to SASO and True Concord — which at the time was called Tucson Chamber Artists. She also is a big contributor to the Tucson Desert Song Festival, which kicked off its fifth year this weekend.
Vanek’s goal: To unite Tucson’s classical music community.
“All of these groups were in competition with each other. But now they are all working together with the festival,” said the 90-year-old Oro Valley resident, who regularly attends concerts presented by the groups she supports. “I’ve been trying to pull all of the music together. By sponsoring them all, they’ve gotten to the point that they’re working together.”