For Colorado Symphony patrons, a visit to Boettcher Concert Hall isn’t complete without a trip to the Guild Shop. The Shop, for short, is a gift-givers delight full of unique souvenirs, seasonal fashions, and the only place to get your hands on one of the physical recordings produced by the Colorado Symphony.
But what may be less apparent to patrons is the long, storied history shared between the Colorado Symphony and the Guild – a relationship that stretches back to the very birth of the ensemble now known as the Colorado Symphony.
In 1922, the Denver Civic Symphony Orchestra, a semi-professional precursor to the Denver Symphony Orchestra, was established. During the Great Depression, the ensemble struggled to pay musicians and find customers willing to pay for performances. In 1934, the Symphony’s volunteer publicist, Helen Marie Black, along with prominent local figures Jeanne Cranmer and Lucille Wilkin founded the Denver Symphony Orchestra. Black would go on to become the first woman CEO of a major United States symphony orchestra, while serving as the Denver Symphony Orchestra’s business manager for more than 30 years, including twelve of them as an unpaid volunteer.
Shortly after the founding of the Denver Symphony Orchestra, Ms. Cranmer envisioned an organization that would serve the DSO, not only in fundraising but as a nurturer of great music and future audience creation from the youth of the city. In 1935 she hosted a luncheon with six of her friends, including Helen Marie Black, at the Denver Country Club. It was at this meeting that the wheels were set in motion to form just such an organization. During a gathering at Mrs. Cranmer’s home with 75 of Denver’s cultural leaders, the Women’s Committee for the Orchestra was officially formed with Ms. Cranmer elected as Chairmen, a post she held until 1940.
The Women’s Committee became the precursor to the Denver Symphony Guild, which changed its name in 1940 and in 1947 saw the establishment of Music Appreciation Groups in various areas of Denver. The objective of these groups was to support the Denver Symphony Orchestra and encourage musical appreciation, knowledge and participation of its members and the community as a whole. This mission continues to be the Guild’s purpose today.
Throughout their history, Guild members have been vital to many Symphony events and programs. As far back as 1947, the Guild promoted the orchestra’s first Red Rocks concert series by staffing five Thursday-Friday ticket booths in strategic Denver locations preceding the weekend events. The Guild helped expand the orchestra’s Education Department with the formation of the Junior Guild’s original “Tiny Tots” program in 1967. In 1973, a $30,000 Guild gift underwrote the orchestra’s first recording. And when Boettcher Hall opened in 1977 and was dedicated in 1978, Guild members served as ushers for introductory tours as well as the inaugural “Pick a Seat” program.
The Guild has maintained this strong relationship through the best and worst of times in the Symphony’s history. When, in 1988, the Denver Symphony Orchestra suffered a severe financial downturn which resulted in the concert season being suspended for several months, the Guild remained loyal. Their devotion was rewarded as the Symphony survived and emerged stronger as the Colorado Symphony. Thereafter the Guild Board voted on a name change to Colorado Symphony Guild as it is known today.
After 83 years, the CSG continues to be an invaluable component of the Colorado Symphony’s success. Since its inception, the Guild has provided over $4 million in donations to the Colorado Symphony. Last year the Guild generously gave $81,000 in total denotations and this year The Guild plans to donate $84,000 to commemorate their 84 years in existence.
“The generous support of the Colorado Symphony Guild is vital to the success of our organization,” said Brett Mitchell, Music Director. “We’re grateful not only for the Guild’s outstanding financial support through fundraising efforts and sales at the Guild Shop, but also for the support they provide to our musicians and staff throughout the season. Their passion and enthusiasm for the Colorado Symphony energizes our entire organization.”
The Guild is made up of six chapters located throughout Denver. They include the Applewood-North, Denver East, Career-Metro, Bow Mar-Littleton, Highlands Ranch/Lone Tree, and Hilltop-Southeast Chapters. Each chapter is responsible for holding at least one fundraiser a year and all members pay yearly dues. Chapters vary in size with each having its own officers and a Chapter Chairman who also serves on the Guild’s Board of Directors. All chapters meet monthly from September through June with meetings taking place at members’ homes, community clubhouses, churches, or local restaurant.
“The Colorado Symphony would not be where it is today without their support over these last 83 years.”
Jerry Kern, Colorado Symphony CEO and Chair of the Board
“The efforts and enthusiasm of Guild members make the Colorado Symphony Guild a unique and invaluable part of the Colorado Symphony,” said Jerry Kern, Colorado Symphony CEO and Chair of the Board of Trustees. “The Colorado Symphony would not be where it is today without their support over these last 83 years.”
Today, the most visible and well-known element of the Guild is the Shop, which debuted in 1983 as a card table in the Boettcher Concert Hall lobby selling wrapping paper. The Guild Shop has evolved into a go-to boutique for unique musically oriented gifts, recordings produced by the Colorado Symphony, fine leather goods and jewelry, and trend setting clothing that appeals to the diverse patrons of the Colorado Symphony. The Shop renews its merchandise annually, bringing in new vendors, artisans, and clothing lines each season. The Shop’s transformation over time has been justified as it’s produced more than $450,000 in total net proceeds for the Colorado Symphony.
The future of the Guild involves attracting new members and helping the symphony’s continued growth by building on their six Denver chapters with the implementation of a new chapter catering specifically to working adults. This proposed chapter would offer more convenient meeting times for adults with busy schedules.
“Every great city needs a great symphony and our Colorado Symphony feeds the hearts, minds, and souls of this community,” said Sara Moore, Guild President. “The Guild is proud of its past successes and looks forward to adding to those successes in the future.”
The support and dedication of the Guild has been vital to the success of the Colorado Symphony since its inception 84 years ago. Become a part of the Guild’s future and learn how you can give back by becoming a Guild member today at coloradosymphonyguild.org.
This article first appeared in the 2018 winter edition of Soundings, the Magazine of the Colorado Symphony.