To shore itself up after an especially turbulent few months, the Prince William Symphony Orchestra named a new executive director and added three members to its board last week.
In addition, Carl Long, the artistic director, has agreed to return for a 10th season.
Karin Hendrickson took over as executive director July 1. Hendrickson composed the torch relay song for the 2002 Olympics and recently worked in fundraising for the Center for the Arts at George Mason University in Fairfax, where she received a master's degree in instrumental conducting.
"I think what's important in the next three years is for the orchestra to become well-rounded in all the things they do," said Hendrickson, who spent last week meeting with donors and attending to details such as the symphony's phone bills, which she managed to trim by $90 a month.
"Right now, the artistic side is quite good," she said. "The administrative side is getting there. The fundraising side needs the most work, but we'll get there."
The Prince William Symphony has struggled over the years with funding, ever-changing executive directors, feuds and pulling all the pieces together for another season.
The past few months have been especially difficult. In April, the orchestra canceled its final concert of the season because there wasn't enough money. In May, Elizabeth Nathanson resigned as executive director, criticizing the organization for having a "high school bake sale" mentality to fundraising. She has since incorporated a rival orchestra, the Dominion Philharmonic Society. The Prince William Symphony Orchestra is about $30,000 in debt.
The troubles have been untimely and embarrassing, considering that county officials have been trying to project a more sophisticated image and that GMU's planned $56 million performing arts center at its Manassas campus has been marketed as the new home of the symphony, among other arts groups.
The problems have been a bit perplexing, given the recent influx of new residents and businesses to the county who would seem to be a natural source of larger audiences and financial support.
Hendrickson, who has a one-year contract with the symphony, said her top priority is to begin tapping that fresh well, to cultivate a steady base of contributors and to promote the symphony to a broader audience.
For years, she said, the orchestra has depended too heavily on funding from the county and the City of Manassas -- 20 percent and 10 percent of its budget, respectively -- and on a small corps of corporate donors.
She noted that the symphony has not even consistently mailed out pledge letters to the community asking for donations, one of the most basic tools of fundraising.
"The idea is to start functioning well on the business side and fundraising side, as any healthy orchestra would," Hendrickson said. "It's just not something that has been cultivated, and it is a very normal side of having a symphony orchestra. If you don't go out there and ask, nothing's going to grow."
Hendrickson, 28, was recommended for the post by Bill Reeder, dean of the Visual and Performing Arts College at George Mason University. Reeder is among the three new members of the orchestra's board. The other two are Ranganathan Shashidhar, an executive with Geo-Centers Inc., a chemical and biological research company that moved to Innovation@Prince William about a year ago; and Cassie Cataline, a vice president with KSI Inc. The symphony hopes that they will help beef up fundraising.
The county is joining with the university and Manassas to build the performing arts center, and Reeder has been very involved in that effort.
Recently, there has been talk that if fundraising goes well, the center could open in 2008, instead of late 2009 or 2010, as originally planned.
Reeder said that although Hendrickson is young, she has been effective in her work developing donors at GMU. Her relative youth and "broad artistic palette" are assets because younger audiences need to be cultivated, he said.
Hendrickson will have the resources of the university at her disposal, he said, including the recently established Center for Arts management.
"We're going through an amazing cultural revolution in the county right now," said Reeder, who lives in Manassas. "The growth in the county is unprecedented . . . and there's an absolutely clear appetite for cultural offerings. We're at an interesting point where all this new energy is just now ready to connect to established institutions, like the symphony."
Although the plans are mighty, the upcoming symphony season this fall will probably be modest. So far, just three concerts are planned, one fewer than last year.