On Tuesday, Bexar County granted significant funding to two San Antonio performing arts groups: $325,000 to the fledgling San Antonio Philharmonic, and $225,000 to the Classical Music Institute, a resident company of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

“It’s a historic day,” said San Antonio Philharmonic President Brian Petkovich, acknowledging not only the help for his organization’s first season as an independent orchestra but Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff’s substantial support for symphonic music in San Antonio during his decades-long tenure in city and county government.

Former District 1 Councilman and current Philharmonic board member Roberto Treviño joined Petkovich in thanking Wolff on the judge’s last day on the Commissioners Court. 

“Thank you so much for your support today and all the years you’ve supported the arts,” Treviño said. “This is something that we hope will make you very, very proud,” he said of the Philharmonic’s upcoming season, which includes more than 30 free Young People’s Concerts at area schools.

The $225,000 grant to the Classical Music Institute (CMI) was approved on the Commissioners Court’s consent agenda, meaning the item passed without discussion. The grant could be considered Wolff’s last gesture to the performing arts community, described in the budget request as a “budgeted expense within the Non-Departmental Budget for Contributions to Other Agencies,” and leaves “$0 remaining to be allocated” from that fund. 

Wolff could not be reached immediately for comment, as Commissioners Court was still in session at the time this story was published.

An earlier $300,000 county grant to CMI in October put the two arts groups at odds, with the labor union representing musicians of the Philharmonic protesting publicly and placing CMI on its International Unfair List in an effort to prevent union member musicians from participating in the group’s performances.

The situation was temporarily resolved in federal court on Nov. 14, allowing CMI to perform as the orchestra for Opera San Antonio’s production of Pagliacci Nov. 3-5 and Ballet San Antonio’s performances of The Nutcracker Dec. 2-11 with its full complement of union and non-union musicians. 

The San Antonio Philharmonic evolved from the remnants of the defunct San Antonio Symphony, a Tobin Center resident company that formerly handled orchestra duties for opera and ballet productions.

On Oct. 26, Petkovich submitted a request for $350,000 in county funding for the Philharmonic, mostly to offset fees paid to musicians for the orchestra’s 2022-2023 season.

In an announcement from Commissioner Tommy Calvert’s office to media late Monday, Calvert was described as “the lone voice against a union-busting initiative,” having been the only commissioner to vote against the October allocation to CMI. The announcement foretold the court’s vote of funding support for the Philharmonic, described as “the community-supported professional orchestra.”

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...