Win-Win Partnerships: Ohio Valley Symphony Marks 25 Years (Part 2 of 2)

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Lora Snow 9-09 picLast week, we learned about the origins of The Ohio Valley Symphony (OVS) in Gallipolis, Ohio, which is celebrating its 25th season. This week we’ll continue our conversation with Lora Lynn Snow, OVS founder, executive director and principal oboist, to learn more about their theatre and factors behind the group’s success.

YPP: Who uses your theatre?

Snow: Our primary group, OVS, has a five-concert series each year. Owning our facility opens up more options to work with local businesses and organizations. We host a variety of events: receptions, weddings, parties, classes, business meetings, exhibits.

One of our oldest partnerships is with a local prom fashion business; they hold an annual style show in our building and we keep the ticket proceeds. It’s a win-win situation, which is how we try to arrange all our deals, whether hosting events or hiring musicians.

Gallipolis’ emancipation proclamation celebration – the longest-running such celebration in the country – holds their opening concert in our theatre. Last February we also hosted a black history celebration. One of our original sponsors, the Ohio Valley Bank, holds their annual meeting here.

YPP: What makes your theatre so popular?

Snow: It’s a good place for people to congregate, which was the original intent of opera houses. They were secular gathering places, constructed with store fronts on street level to provide regular income; the theatre was situated farther back or even upstairs. We have a long hall between the front lobby and the theatre.

The third floor consisted of a lodge room, meant as a meeting space for the Ariel Oddfellows Lodge that built the building in 1895; the Masonic Lodge purchased it in 1919. We now call that room our Chamber Theatre; it features good acoustics and large windows. We use it for smaller performances, events and weddings.

YPP: What factors contributed to your success?

Snow: It’s serendipity; when we had a need, some person or entity stepped up to meet it. I also thank my dad for preaching fiscal responsibility to me. Financially we’ve remained in the black all this time. If we don’t have it, we don’t spend it. We have an endowment but only spend the proceeds.

We’re also careful about how we program. There’s so much beautiful music in the world, we couldn’t begin to play it all. If we’ve only got a fixed amount of money, why program a piece that costs twice as much as another piece, when you factor in the number of musicians needed and royalty payments?

And we take care of our people, so musicians want to play with us. If you treat musicians well, they are more relaxed and better able to focus on music. That makes the music more beautiful and people pick up on that. Some audience members drive several hours to our performances.

YPP: What is the future of symphonic music?

Snow: I don’t think there’s any danger of it going out of style. We have four orchestras in our region. Everybody struggles a bit, but their existence shows that communities support the arts.

We recently hosted a group of high school band students who had never heard an orchestra before. That was really rewarding for us. It’s like giving someone their first taste of chocolate cake – Wow!

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