Herbert Spencer, probably the most famous philosopher of his age, observed that, “Architecture, sculpture, painting, music and poetry, may truly be called the efflorescence of civilized life.” He also rightly concluded that “Music must take rank as the highest of the fine arts — as the one which, more than any other, ministers to human welfare.”

Old Herbert had it right. And here, in the heart of the Sandhills, evidence of that truth was demonstrated most forcefully on Monday, Dec. 17 at the Robert E. Lee Auditorium when The Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra presented Handel’s Messiah under the brilliant direction of Maestro David Michael Wolf. It was a soaring musical experience. Handel would have been proud to hear it, of that I am certain.

The Carolina Philharmonic is now in its tenth year. In that short time, it has grown from a modest chamber orchestra to a full-throated symphony orchestra of high repute. Throughout the year the Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra provides remarkable concerts and recitals. January will see pieces by Chopin, Liszt, Baudelaire, Debussy and Monet combined. February will introduce the greatest western film scores as well as a classic pops repertoire that has become identified with the Wild West. March promises a review of Broadway going back one hundred years. April, the orchestra will feature four operatic soloists and May promises galactic music from Holst’s Planets to Star Trek, with accompanying images from outer space.

The orchestra has a dual mission. In addition to providing extra special symphonic experiences, it also brings the joy of exceptional music to thousands of local school children each year. The subscription series of concerts reaches more than 6,000 music lovers annually. The educational program serves over 3,500 children every year.

Carnegie Hall Link Up reaches 1,130 students in grades 3 to 5; Encore! Kids, inspires 2,260 students in grades K-2; the Junior Orchestra serves 100 students in grades 3-12. Musical instruments are loaned to learners. Children are invited to come up on stage and perform heir stringed instruments with The Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra in a multi-media, interactive concert. There are few places in the country where such a plethora of musical opportunities are afforded to musically motivated children without charge.

These creative music education programs are unique to Moore County. They are ongoing participatory performances. They build within our children a joy for music that they may carry throughout their lives. Remarkably, since these programs began, they will have impacted over 13,000 kids with 6,295, who have been through programs for more than one and often several years.

More than 2,000 local children, grades K-2 are now preparing with their music and art teachers to join Maestro Wolf and The Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra on April 2, 2019 for an interactive live Encore Kids orchestral experience. They will join in the music, and the children’s original artwork on a theme of Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals” will be integrated into the performance. Later the art will be featured at an exhibit of the Arts Council of Moore County.

Fortunately, the public has reacted to all this musical largess by generously supporting the Carolina Philharmonic, but as programs expand to serve more children the need for more money persists. That is why The Carolina Music Education Endowment Fund was established five years ago. Gifts and pledges to it are expected to help the orchestra continue its good works and meet its future goals.

What many do not realize is that for America’s performing arts organizations, ticket sales typically account for only 30 percent to 40 percent of total income. That is why private and public contributions are vital to their health and growth.

The Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra does not receive any state or federal public funding. Even the famed North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, which has been performing since the height of the Great Depression in 1932, only receives about 21 cents from each citizen in state funding. This allows it to travel throughout North Carolina, so its music may be heard far and wide. None of the other symphony orchestras in the state receive funding. If the state’s contribution to symphony orchestras was doubled from a mere 21 cents to 42 cents per capita, then each of the other 16 orchestras, including the Carolina “Phil” could enjoy funding averaging $275,000 annually in grants, subject to proven need and demonstrated good management.

Longfellow wrote that “Music is the universal language of mankind.” How fortunate we are to have wonderful music enriching our lives as a courtesy, thanks in no small part to The Carolina Symphony Orchestra.

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