Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing rehearses with the San Antonio Symphony. Courtesy photo.

The San Antonio Symphony received its biggest philanthropic gift since moving to the new Tobin Center for Performing Arts two months ago when H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt gave $1 million this week.

The $1 million gift came in the form of a three-year matching gift which the Symphony staff will use to gather other donations, and follows other large contributions that H-E-B and Butt individually have made to the Symphony and the performing arts over the years.

H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt address the audience at the 2013 Excellence in Education Awards in Austin, May 3. Photo courtesy of H-E-B.
H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt address the audience at the 2013 Excellence in Education Awards in Austin, May 3. Photo courtesy of H-E-B. Credit: Photo courtesy of H-E-B

“The move into the Tobin Center has certainly heightened our visibility, but the gift from Mr. Butt puts the spotlight on all the things we do outside the Tobin Center and in the community,” said David Gross, Symphony president and CEO. “Our education initiatives are critical to our mission.”

San Antonio Symphony President David Gross
San Antonio Symphony President David Gross

The Butt gift comes weeks after the Symphony announced it will begin setting aside 10% of its seats for free distribution to San Antonio area students. It comes two weeks after Bexar County Commissioners gave $175,000 to the Symphony, Opera San Antonio, and Ballet San Antonio.

“The Symphony is committed to expanding access to its concerts, and this gift will ensure that a diverse audience can experience the performance of live symphonic music at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts,” said David Kinder, Symphony board chair. “Mr. Butt’s gift will also help students develop a love for music, help them become the Symphony’s future audience, and allow them to be instruments for change.”

Kinder, an attorney with Cox/Smith, was elected to serve as chairman of the Symphony board in September. He is the immediate past president of  the San Antonio Symphony League, which has raised and gifted more than $2 million to the Symphony.

He succeeded longtime Chairman Dennert “Denny” Ware, an entrepreneur and former CEO of Kinetic Concepts. Ware and his wife, Suzanne, also are major donors to the Symphony.

Under Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing and numerous members of the orchestra, the Symphony has increased its programs and outreach to San Antonio area students, working independently and with the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio, through the Symphony’s Young People’s Concerts, which will include 23 free performances this season, as well as the teaching efforts of individual musicians.  This year nearly 50,000 San Antonio students will attend a free performance.

The outreach programs and concerts are open to all area students, whether they attend public, charter, parochial, or private schools or are home-schooled. For more information on the Symphony’s education programs and concerts, click here.

Butt’s gift and matching dollars raised in the coming months will help underwrite the free Family Concerts led by Associate Conductor Akiko Fujimoto, Open Rehearsals for Students, discount concert tickets for school groups and a side-by-side concert with the YOSA Philharmonic Orchestra.

 David Kinder, Symphony board chair.
San Antonio Symphony Board Chair David Kinder

“Over the next three years, the Symphony hopes to expand all of its programming that is directed at elementary, middle school, and high school students with the goal of reaching over 75,000 students per year,” said Kinder. “Mr. Butt’s gift is the initial spark that will ignite this effort.”

The Symphony’s program Friday and Saturday evenings will feature a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, along with works by Defeo, Verdi, and Rachmaninoff. Click here for ticket information.

“Charles Butt is a game changer in San Antonio and for the Symphony with his most recent gift,” said Lang-Lessing. “I totally share his vision for the city. If we want to truly become a better city it will only happen through education. Giving inner city children access to the Symphony and involving students in music education is critically important.  What we are doing with tens of thousands of students now wouldn’t happen without the generosity and commitment of Charles Butt.”

*Featured/top image: Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing rehearses with the San Antonio Symphony. Courtesy photo.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is editor of the San Antonio Report.