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Magnificent Gifts

By Rick Pender · December 23rd, 2009 · Curtain Call
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Cincinnati’s Classical music community was stunned and blessed by a remarkable gift announced on Dec. 10. Louise Dieterle Nippert, a long-time (although low-profile) supporter of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Opera, established an $85 million fund that will sustain those two organizations and Cincinnati Ballet for years to come.

The fund will make it possible for the CSO to sustain its artistic excellence with a full complement of musicians and for the Opera and Ballet to offer performances at Music Hall with full-scale orchestral accompaniment.

It was a breathtaking gesture, one almost unmatched anywhere else in the United States. Our community is truly blessed by this gift, which will enable our Classical music scene to remain strong for generations to come.

This generous and transformative gesture might seem like something that the rest of us can only dream of, but in fact it’s an inspiration for all of us. Of course, most of us don’t have the dollars to make the same impact as Mrs. Nippert, whose late husband was a great-grandson of James M. Gamble (as in Procter & …).

But don’t let that stop you from being a philanthropist in your own way.

And since her generosity has benefited our city’s outstanding classical music organizations, I hope you’ll consider how you might make a difference for our theaters.

Most Cincinnati theater companies have no endowment and only modest resources to generate dollars to pay their operating expenses. They depend on earned income (i.e., ticket sales), but if ticket prices had to cover all the costs of running a theater, most of us could not afford many of them. (For most theaters, earned income doesn’t support 50 percent of their operating budget.) As a result, fundraising is a necessary component of every theater’s business operation.

During 2009, the theater community was saddened by the death of Dr. Robert J. Thierauf, a retired business professor from Xavier University. He was not a man of boundless wealth, but he loved live theater that pushed boundaries and made people think. What’s more, he was committed to supporting it.

The initial sponsor of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, he subsequently underwrote productions at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Ensemble Theatre and Know Theatre. His death left those companies seeking new donors to replace his generosity.

With just about a week left in 2009, I urge you to think about sending a check to a local theater company. (I mention the date because these institutions are nonprofit organizations, so your gift is tax-deductible.) Don’t think that a contribution of $25 won’t mean much. It could help a small company buy a much-needed prop that will bring humor to a comedy or a few gallons of paint to make a set come to life.

A gift of $100 would help support a local actor’s performance in a show or replace an outdated lighting instrument.

If you can spare more, you’ll be a hero whose philanthropy is appreciated as much as Bill Gates.

Call your favorite theater and ask the development director about what your gift might mean. Or go to the theater’s Web site and look for the option to contribute online.

It will only take a few minutes and you’ll be in the same league with Mrs. Nippert and Dr. Thierauf. And that’s pretty good company.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: rpender@citybeat.com



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