March 28th marked my first six months working at the Houston Symphony as a Patron Services Specialist. In the short time that I have been here, I have forged special relationships with several patrons who have been willing to open their hearts and welcome me into their Houston Symphony experience. There are so many different people that I could highlight in this blog—many people who not only made the commitment to support the Symphony through their various resources, but they have influenced my life with their passion for our organization and helping us share great music with the Houston community. This time, I think I will choose the woman who was one of the first to touch my heart.
The first day on the job making fundraising calls I was met with a few sneers and abrupt hang-ups. Then, I called Ann Anderson for a renewal gift to our annual fund. During the course of the conversation, I found out that she was not able to attend the Beethoven’s 9th concert at the beginning of the year, as it was the anniversary of her husband’s passing. The atmosphere of the conversation suddenly changed. After a few brief words and her consideration to renew her gift, Ann quietly hung up the receiver. I’m not sure why, but that particular phone call stuck with me that day. Even though I hardly knew this woman at all, I felt compelled to write her a note of encouragement. I did not really know whether Ann would appreciate it or be appalled, but there was something in my spirit that wouldn’t let me let that brief encounter go.
A couple of weeks later, we received Ann’s donation to our Annual Fund. When I contacted her with a follow-up thank you call, she was thrilled to talk to me. She said she had been meaning to call and thank me for the note that I sent. She had shown neighbors and friends, and was so touched by my letter. We spent the next thirty minutes talking about her late husband and her latest project as a first-time author. At the conclusion of the phone conversation, we agreed to meet at one of the upcoming concerts.
After that initial meeting, Ann and I have corresponded occasionally through mail, e-mail, during concerts and at private rehearsals. I have had the privilege of meeting her friends and reading her book, A Blind Raccoon in the Family. Aside from meeting Ann in person, I think one of the best gifts I’ve received was reading her book. Through the very descriptive narrative, the book allowed me to be able to become acquainted with her home life and with her late husband. It really is a wonderful story of one woman’s relationship with a wild animal which reinforces her ideals of resilience, courage and the triumphs in motherhood.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Ann telling me that she is moving to North Carolina to be closer to family. Although Ann said she will more than likely become a subscriber of the Charlotte Symphony, she will definitely miss the Houston Symphony’s world class performances. There is definitely a bit of sadness, even as I write this blog, knowing that a friendship I have made through the Symphony may come to an end. I will definitely miss seeing such a warm familiar face during performances and private rehearsals. When I asked her what she will miss most about the Houston Symphony, she responded, “I’ll certainly miss you. You’ve renewed my faith in human nature. I’ll also miss the way the music enfolds me and lifts my spirits. Live classical music played by the Houston Symphony enriches my life. It’s so much better than listening to a recording. It’s a whole body experience that brings me joy every time I attend.”
There are probably hundreds of Houston Symphony patrons that could share similar stories of relationships that have begun with a trip to a performance. Some patrons have told me that they became friends over the years because they have had subscription seats next to one another for so long. One woman told me that she gets a pair of subscription seats every year because she likes bringing family and friends who really haven’t been exposed to orchestral music.
In the brief time that I’ve worked here at the Symphony, I’ve come to realize how important relationships really are and how natural relationship-building is in this setting. Being able to share music with others is such a lasting gift. However it’s more than that. It’s about sharing life experiences with others through a common bond. Music is only the beginning.