Delaware Symphony Orchestra concert to benefit Schwartz Center

Trumpet player Brian Kuszyk will be part of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra brass quintet concert Thursday to benefit efforts to reopen the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — Add the Delaware Symphony Orchestra to those eager to see the Schwartz Center for the Arts reopen in downtown Dover.

“We were saddened to learn of its closing back in June. But I can understand the challenges the group faced. Maybe this can be a good wakeup call for the community and the need to support a cultural arts center in Dover,” said DSO Executive Director Alan Jordan.

To that end, the symphony’s brass quintet will perform a holiday show Thursday night at 7:30 at Dover’s Central Middle School with all proceeds benefiting the reopening efforts of the 550-seat State Street theater.

The quintet, made up of Brian Kuszyk and Steven Skahill on trumpets, Karen Schubert on French horn, Richard Linn on trombone and Brian Brown on tuba, will perform festive music for brass from the 16th to the 20th centuries, including music from Bach to Leonard Bernstein. After intermission, selections from “The Nutracker” and various Christmas carols will be performed.

The same program will be performed Tuesday night in the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington. Mr. Jordan said the concert was also originally booked to play the Schwartz this month prior to its closing on June 30 citing financial troubles.

“After we heard about the closing, we thought ‘Now what do we do?’ We still wanted to perform in Dover but suddenly the Schwartz wasn’t an option,” Mr. Jordan said.

Originally the concert was booked for Dover High School but a basketball game Thursday night curtailed that idea. Mr. Jordan visited Central Middle’s auditorium at 4 p.m. Tuesday and gave the OK for the show to go on there.

“This has been a very spontaneous concert,” he joked. “It’s been almost like a flash mob.”

The program is being underwritten entirely by Rosemary Twilley, whose Kent County Fund for the Arts has raised money for various local arts organizations.

“This way, every dollar raised can go to the Schwartz,” Mr. Jordan said.

“It serves two purposes for her. She enjoys supporting the symphony and she has a strong desire to see the Schwartz reopen.”

Mr. Jordan attended the Nov. 16 workshop at the Schwartz that gathered community and arts leaders to discuss five areas — operations, financial and fundraising, talent and booking, marketing and promotion and governance — and seek consensus for short-term goals moving forward.

Mr. Jordan said he thinks the only way that the Schwartz can reopen is through local involvement.

“It has to be Dover supporting it. It can’t be Wilmington and it can’t be the state legislature. It’s important that the Dover community take an active interest in getting the Schwartz back up and running,” he said.

Delaware State University general counsel David Sheppard this summer outlined the funding provided by the university and Wesley over the years. Those institutions own the Schwartz building. In addition to their $4 million investment, the higher education institutions contributed $120,000 annually from 2007 to 2015.

Mr. Sheppard and Wesley President Robert Clark have said that while both institutions are committed to leasing the building to an arts group, they were not in positions to continue subsidizing the venue.

Dover City Council President Tim Slavin has since led a grass-roots effort to reopen the theater, which has its beginnings in the days of vaudeville. The group has a goal of opening the theater permanently by the first weekend of May.

Mr. Jordan said, “The effort will hopefully gain the momentum that it needs. But a combination of things needs to happen. No theater or organization can rely on ticket sales alone. For us, ticket sales only account for 20 percent of our revenue.”

Since its closure, The Children’s Theatre has been the only organization that has performed at the Schwartz, staging “A Dickens Christmas Carol” last month. The group was responsible for staffing the venue from the ushers to the cleanup crew.

Patron tickets for Thursday night’s benefit are $100, which includes a pre-concert reception at a venue still to be determined in Dover and reserved seating for the program.

Tickets for the concert only are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and military members and $10 for students.

They are available by calling the Delaware Symphony Orchestra office at (302) 656-7442 or visiting DelawareSymphony.org.

Central Middle School is at 211 Delaware Ave. in Dover.

“We’re hoping to get a couple of hundred people from the community to come out and show their support for what I think is a cultural gem,” Mr. Jordan said.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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