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Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra gets $100,000 donation

Mary Pickels
| Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011

An unexpected $100,000 donation from the Perot Foundation, representing the largest gift in the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra's 43-year history, will enable the orchestra to expand its educational programming.

"It absolutely came out of the blue. We were surprised and delighted," Morrie Brand, orchestra executive director, said on Monday.

The foundation, a philanthropy of Texas billionaire businessman and two-time presidential candidate H. Ross Perot and his wife, Greensburg native Margot Birmingham Perot, has given financial gifts to the orchestra in the past.

"But not at this level," Brand said.

Margot Perot has contributed items to the orchestra's annual fundraising dinner and auction, "Spring Rhapsody," in recent years, including a $3,000 lavender jade and diamond ring and Boehm Mute Swan figures. She and her husband donated a painting one year.

The orchestra has received grants "near this size," Brand said, but they were awarded over a number of years and typically had restrictions on their use.

"This gift is unique, in being the largest and the most free to use as we chose," he said.

The grant is designed to support the orchestra's short-term financial stability and encourage creativity and growth.

The orchestra intends to use the money for various purposes. It will fund a family night concert, form a chamber music series and increase the orchestra's endowment.

Brand said the Perots are pleased with the orchestra's plans.

He recalled meeting the couple once when they were in the Greensburg area for a family function.

"I had an interesting talk with Ross. He's quite a character," Brand said.

Family members in Westmoreland County notified the orchestra's board of the gift.

"Then I was notified and we met to discuss what to do with this," he said.

Board President Priscilla Richardson called the timing of the gift "inspired," as it arrived as the orchestra welcomed new artistic director Daniel Meyer.

"Under his baton, the WSO is gearing to both strengthen and expand its programs. Specifically, the Perot grant will be used to strengthen the orchestra's educational programs that reach children of all ages and adults in the community," Richardson said in a news release.

"We have a wonderful, dedicated audience which I hope to grow over the next few years, and this money provides an opportunity to secure our quality, grow and develop our audience, motivate creative thinking and programming, and inspire even more people to enjoy and support great music in the schools, on the stage and in our community," Meyer said in a statement.

The orchestra presents four classical concerts and one holiday pops concert a year, as well as three performances of "The Nutcracker" at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg. It performs a free concert in St. Clair Park in the city each summer.

Its community programs include its Visiting Artists Program, Young People Concert, Youth Orchestra, Community Strings and classical concert previews.

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