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Yo-Yo Ma not the only one pitching for Colorado Symphony

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Colorado Public Radio pledge drives aren't all that popular even with people who donate to keep the organization running. But at least the just-concluded session had a twist: Cash was generated to support a different organization -- the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

Margaret Williams, the CSO's vice president of marketing and communication, emphasizes that the symphony wouldn't have collapsed under its own weight without the three-day event, capped by a sold-out Boettcher Concert Hall performance by superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma. But she acknowledges the orchestra was definitely feeling the pinch due to the economy. "We're just like everybody else," she says. "And who in either the profit or nonprofit world right now couldn't use this type of boost?"

The CSO "had already taken very responsible steps to make sure our budget was in line with the economy," Williams says. "Our staff and orchestra members all took cuts. They put together a package of where they thought money could come from and eliminated $2.5 million from our budget without reducing our programming or what we provide to the community through education and outreach."

These trims didn't relocate CSO to Fat City, however. Hence, the idea for a radio-a-thon, which CPR, a longtime partner of the orchestra, agreed to host -- and the broadcaster got special permission from the Federal Communications Commission to stage the event. Over the course of three days, even Yo-Yo Ma took to the microphone, and in the end, $625,758, counting matching contributions, was generated by 1,933 listeners.

No doubt many of these folks already subscribe to the symphony, but not all of them. Williams says the number of new donors is still being calculated, but it appears to be sizable. In her view, this fresh blood "will help fuel the growth of the organization and put us on a very solid foundation for the future."

That future is now. At 7:30 p.m. tonight and tomorrow at Boettcher Concert Hall, the CSO, under the direction of Julian Kuerti (assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, who also held the baton for the Yo-Yo Ma show), offers a program featuring Strauss, Mozart and Beethoven. Visit the Colorado Symphony website linked above for more details.

The shows aren't specifically benefits, although Williams says, "You could philosophically make the argument that any of our concerts is a benefit for the symphony."

As for more CPR-aired pledge drives, there won't be any.

"This was actually the first time we've done a fundraiser on the air, and it will be the last time," she says. "The FCC basically only offers this kind of thing once. It was a one-time opportunity."

Meaning the next pledge drive you hear on Colorado Public Radio will raise money for Colorado Public Radio. Be prepared.

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