Ching! Chicago Symphony collects another $2 million

Ching! Chicago Symphony collects another $2 million


norman lebrecht

January 15, 2015

It’s the first check to be cashed by new boss Jeff Alexander. Press release below.




CHICAGO—Jeff Alexander, President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA), announced today that CSOA Trustee Bruce Clinton and his wife, Martha, along with members of The Clinton Family Fund, pledged $2 million to the CSOA to endow the Principal Timpani position in the Orchestra. The position, held since 2013 by David Herbert, will be known as The Clinton Family Fund Principal Timpani Chair of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.Said Jeff Alexander, “This extraordinarily generous gift will benefit the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for many years to come. Everyone in the CSO family is profoundly grateful to the Clintons for their steadfast support of the organization over many years.”

David Herbert said, “It is a tremendous honor to have the Principal Timpani position at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra endowed by The Clinton Family Fund. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the generosity and foresight of Bruce and Martha Clinton in supporting this venerable orchestra now and in the future.” In 2013, the Clintons made a gift to the CSOA for the purchase of a set of new timpani which Herbert said was a “huge upgrade to the orchestra’s collection.”

Said Bruce Clinton, “I was born and raised in Chicago, and my parents encouraged me to come to the programs of the CSO. I developed a passion for this timeless art form, and with it, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In my late teens I even fantasized about becoming a professional timpanist. For us, we are immensely proud to be connected, even in a small way, to Maestro Muti, to the extraordinary musicians of the CSO and to David Herbert , who is a preeminent timpanist.

“At one time I wanted to be a timpanist, and this is as close as I’ll get. I’m grateful to the Trustees of The Clinton Family Fund for supporting my dream. I am a member of the CSO Board Finance Committee, where we’re reminded how it has to be a collective effort on the part of a lot of people and a lot of institutions to support and nurture this art form. What I hope is that this small sum added to the endowment with many others, over many years, with each generation and each new opportunity, continues to keep the CSO preeminent among its peers. It’s a superior group, and I hope this gift will make some small contribution to this tradition.”


  • Michael B. says:

    What a waste of money. I would rather see that money go to outreach and to the recording of new repertoire on their own label rather than to endow a chair for one musician (not to slight the role of the tympani in the least). This is symptomatic of the smug, self-satisfied, business-as-usual mentality of the major American orchestras while the interest of the general public in any form of classical music is collapsing faster than the price of oil.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      Thank goodness that there are still successful, generous people who support classical music.

    • MacroV says:

      I think your concerns are misplaced. The endowment, but specifically underwriting the principal timpani position, presumably just creates a dedicated funding stream for the position (but at current rates of return, probably not enough to fund the entire salary and benefits). But in doing so, it frees up other, undesignated money that can be used for other purposes.

  • James Dean says:

    Careful CSO, you might be dancing with the devil! that name sounded familiar, so I dug up an article from a few years ago. Mr. Clinton staged a mass exodus by the board of the Colorado Symphony a few years ago when musicians rejected the idea of deep salary cuts (on top of previous deep salary cuts). He then aired some “dirty laundry” in the local newspaper after quitting his post. I would assume that Chicago’s musicians have many of the same protections in place the Mr. Clinton was trying to extract in Denver… Interesting to see what happens.

  • James Dean says:

    One hopes this truly is a gesture of good faith, rewarding a strong and well run institution, and isn’t simply an attempt to buy the influence of an incoming CEO.

  • Pamela Brown says:

    With all due respect to the Clintons, imo, the problem with US orchestras is not money, per se, but the governance, which needs to be changed to assure that the players are always treated fairly…

  • Jeremy says:

    In most cases, the gift that accompanies a naming opportunity like this goes to the general endowment fund, not a single musician’s “account.” Naming the chair is a gesture made in recognition of the gift rather than a restriction on it.