We sat down with longtime Symphony supporters, and upcoming 2023 Opening Night Concert and Gala chairs, Stephen and Mariglyn Glenn, to discuss their love of music, what they love most about the Houston Symphony community, and what guests should expect from next season’s Opening Night festivities.
Do you have a background in music? If not, what sparked your passion for music?
Stephen Glenn (SG): I attended a Denver Symphony program in the sixth grade—similar to the Student Concerts that the Houston Symphony does for upper elementary and middle school students. I really fell in love with classical music then. My passion for classical music didn’t require too much of a spark.
Mariglyn Glenn (MG): I didn’t have much access to live orchestral music growing up in Wink and Andrews in West Texas. However, I was a teacher for many years, and was able to accompany my fifth-grade students to many Student Concerts. As a teacher in low-income schools, I took great pride in exposing my students to music and preparing them for the concerts better than the students from the other schools. Now, our 16-year-old twin granddaughters continue our family’s long legacy of musical support and appreciation by playing French horn and bassoon in their high school band.
You’ve been Houston Symphony subscribers since the 1990s. What was your journey to becoming subscribers and then donors?
SG: When our youngest son left for college in 1994, we started attending concerts regularly as subscribers. Before we had children, we attended Houston Symphony concerts in the ’60s when Sir John Barbirolli and André Previn were conductors. We took some time away from concerts when we became parents to focus on raising our family, but returned 20 years later. We would go to Symphony matinees together, find our seats at the back of the main floor and without many people around, relax and enjoy. We were both working hard at the time, so these concerts became like an oasis in the storm for us.
MG: After some time attending concerts, we realized just how much Symphony relies on patron support and that without contributions from concertgoers like us, there might not be any concerts to go to in the future. So, we started taking a more active role at the Symphony. We became regular donors and would sponsor “symphony dinners,” where we would invite our friends to enjoy a meal at the Spaghetti Warehouse followed by a concert. We also took a greater role by increased patronage and participation in Board and committee meetings.
What brought you to Houston and what made you stay?
SG: We met in a fateful chemistry lab at Texas Tech University where we both students—it was about halfway between our hometowns. After graduating, we moved to Houston where I pursued an aerospace career at NASA and Mariglyn began her teaching career. We settled in Friendswood and decided the Houston area was a great place to live and raise a family. We’ve never thought about leaving. After all, where else will you find the Houston Symphony!
What was your first impression of the Houston Symphony and what sets it apart from other symphonies?
SG: The Houston Symphony was our first fine arts involvement and boy, did we pick wisely! We have enjoyed other venues and organizations, but no group has the sheer number of and variety of performances that the Symphony has. We often say the Symphony has been the best investment we ever made, and it has enriched our lives beyond measure. We’ve been patrons so long that we tend to forget how warmly welcomed we were when we first got involved—here we were, a computer programmer and an elementary school teacher, but we were treated on a par with the titans of Houston industry and pillars of society. This was not true of some of our experiences at other organizations. That’s what makes the Houston Symphony so special!
What’s your favorite part about the Houston Symphony community?
SG: Mariglyn doesn’t like for me to say it, but I maintain if it weren’t for the Symphony, we would have no social life at all. I mentioned how accepting other patrons were when we began going to concerts and events. Although our enjoyment is based primarily on the music, that enjoyment is enhanced by meeting musicians and staff, learning the background of the compositions, and details about how the instruments work. We enjoy everything about the Houston Symphony community from being greeted by the valet upon arrival, to talking with staff members before concerts, to our favorite usher Pat, to friends that attend the same performances we do, to nearby seat mates we’ve gotten to know over the years.
In your opinion, why should the people of Houston support the Symphony and the arts in general?
SG: You deserve it, and the Symphony deserves your attendance. Whoever said art colors life got it right. You can live without art, but art adds another dimension to life. The Houston Symphony is composed of the most talented musicians in the world who work long and hard to maintain their talent and produce about 170 programs a year to share that talent. We like to say the Symphony is Houston’s team that never loses.
You are going to be the chairs of the next season’s Opening Night Concert and Gala. Are you excited about the official start of the 2023-24 Season? And is there anything you can share about the 2023 Opening Night Concert and Gala—what can partygoers expect?
SG: We’re a little nervous, but mostly excited to be the chairs since this is quite an honor! For next season’s Opening Night Gala, we want to focus the attention of the event on Houston. We want to highlight Houston’s position as home of not one, but two Tier 1 higher education institutions. It truly is a unique, diverse, and remarkable city and we want to honor those aspects of our proud city, along with our treasured Houston Symphony.