This is an orchestra assembled of area professional musicians performing high quality music for the public. The programs are often based on themes and culture. Making this these programs free to the public provides people with an opportunity to hear symphonic music in a relaxed atmosphere on the campus of Washington University. Parents can bring their young children, whereas the youngest ones are not allowed in a St. Louis Symphony concert. People who might be intimidated by a more formal setting can have a chance to experience repertoire. Concerts are outdoor and people bring lawn chairs or blankets. By keeping this orchestra funded, musicians are kept employed during a very financially challenging time of year and audiences are presented live music.
Orchestral music is usually presented with great formality in a lavish performance space which promotes this music as intended for the elite and sophisticated. Not so, the summer GFO concerts in Washington University's Quad. The power of great orchestra music is presented outside with the informality and serenity or the space a part of the listening experience. Sandals, shorts and a lawn chair are all that is required to soak up the magic of the concerts of classical music. Special memorable performances are more unique when experienced under the stars and in stunning quietness in our bustling city. The GFO is an excellent professional orchestra providing summer concerts of high quality performances.
The GFO has been providing free, public concerts for over 45 years. As a child it was a chance for me to experience symphonic music in a comfortable setting with my family...that we could afford. FREE. I am now a music educator and often work with children who would not have an opportunity to go to concerts but because of the outdoor venue and cost, I encourage them to attend. They always are delighted with the concerts.
I am the Secretary and Webmaster for the Board of Directors of the Gateway Festival Orchestra. I also regularly play viola with the orchestra every season. The organization's goal to provide professional orchestral music to the St. Louis area during the summer (when our local professional orchestra, the SLSO) has been achieved for forty-six seasons, and even through good times and hard economic times, the board and its members have worked hard to ensure that this goal is met annually. The GFO provides orchestra concerts on Sunday evenings in July on the beautiful campus of Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Our patrons are encouraged to come, bring a blanket or chairs, maybe a picnic or wine & cheese basket, and relax in the summer evening while our orchestra performs some of the great orchestral literature, with some popular and jazz standards occasionally thrown in! Before each of our concerts, we provide mini-lectures and discussions relating to the concert program. Soloists, members of the orchestra and even our music director share their thoughts and knowledge with the audience, giving them a greater insight into the music. We also spend late spring and early summers engaging children and youth in outreach concerts and performances. Members of our orchestra go to various schools, daycare centers and youth groups to share classical music with young people. In recent years, with the economic downturn, we have been working diligently to increase our audience base, as well as our donor base to ensure continued seasons of great orchestral music. Our board has been recently restructured to streamline actions taken and make things run more smoothly. More member involvement on our board has seen more active interest in our organization's success, be it through a recently launched eNewsletter to our patrons or through seasonal letter-mailings to our donors. Our organization's main source of income, through the Music Performance Fund (formerly the Music Performance Trust Fund) will cease to exist this year, causing us to look for newer sources of income. While we have been unsuccessful in filling the need thus far, our board members have been searching for grants and donations high and low, filing applications with various organizations through which we are eligible. The last few years have seen an upswing in donations, and our greatest help has been through the Roland Quest Matching grant. We are currently on our way to meeting our fourth grant with this organization, but it is still not enough. To combat budget constraints, we have been fortunate enough to receive assistance from friends of the orchestra, as well as other organizations (such as the Boy Scouts of America) in helping run several concert-time endeavors (such as stage management, program disbursement and concessions). My personal belief in helping our organization grow financially is that we find ways to engage our patrons during the off-season, or autumn, winter and spring months. As a board member, I am aware of several possible actions we could take that have been in discussion, but we are yet to take steps to see that they are done. I look forward to seeing them organized and planned soon! This organization is truly a blessing for the St. Louis area. No other professional orchestra is performing regularly during this time of the year, and it is my hope that we could find funding to perform more concerts than we do now (from early June to mid August), with a stronger rehearsal schedule. This takes money, of course, but it is my personal goal for the orchestra, and one I hope to see happen in the next decade.