After the San Antonio Symphony's 2019-2020 season, Sebastian Lang-Lessing will become its musical director emeritus. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The San Antonio Symphony’s 2018-19 season began in September, carrying momentum from last season’s record fundraising, a renewed commitment to the community, and the announcement of a new permanent executive director.

The San Antonio Symphony League, the group dedicated to providing financial support for the Symphony, aims to ensure that things keep rolling along. At Saturday night’s concert, the nonprofit, all-volunteer organization will announce a community challenge grant of $100,000, said Kathleen Weir Vale, the Symphony’s board chair.

Running through the end of the year, the challenge grant will match individual contributions dollar for dollar, up to $200,000.

“We want to get lots of participation. Maybe we can even double the match like we did with the County grant last year,” Vale said, recalling the $350,000 emergency matching grant Bexar County Commissioners arranged to help reinstitute the cancelled 2017-18 season.

The 320-member volunteer group has raised millions of dollars in support of the orchestra since its formation in 1950, first as the Women’s Committee of the San Antonio Symphony. After various mergers and evolutions, the League became a nonprofit organization in 2004.

Vale said the League supports the Symphony’s education program, helping to bring 45,000 children a year to see the orchestra perform at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. The League also runs the “Paint To Music” program, in which elementary students create artwork inspired by symphonic music, Vale said.

“We could not do what we do without them,” Vale said of the League.

A certain sports celebrity might be on hand for the announcement, busy schedule permitting. “Rumor has it, from a good source, that Pau Gasol will make an appearance at the Saturday night show,” Vale said.

Pau Gasol is a member of the San Antonio Symphony’s advisory board. Credit: Courtesy / San Antonio Symphony

The San Antonio Spurs center-forward joined the Symphony’s advisory board in March, after hearing of the orchestra’s travails, which included the season shutdown before Vale led its comeback. After a vigorous fundraising effort, the orchestra finished its slightly truncated season in May with a funding surplus and a commitment to community outreach.

“We have newly awakened, broad-based support from individual donors throughout the community,” Vale said.

The organization is back on track, with its annual budget staying steady at a manageable $7.6 million, and a new executive director well-prepared to raise the necessary funds, Vale said. The Symphony on Monday announced the hiring of Corey Cowart as its new, permanent executive director after conducting a nationwide search. He will replace interim Executive Director Michael Kaiser.

“He has the singular qualifications for success,” Vale said. Cowart has the development, marketing, and financial management skills that form the cornerstone of a good orchestra director, she said.

“The thorough knowledge of those three administrative disciplines is critical, and he’s got it all,” she said. He is also a fan of classical music, and understands the perspective of the audience, Vale said. “The really beautiful part here is that he is focused on the consumer, the public, the people who allow us to be successful through their support, by their attendance at concerts and their contributions.”

The concerts Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16-17, feature concertmaster Eric Gratz and guest conductor Akiko Fujimoto, the Symphony’s former associate conductor.

Tickets are on sale at the Tobin Center box office for both performances.

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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...