JSO AND THE FINE ART OF DEVELOPMENT
MARY KATHERINE QUASARANO
THURSDAY APRIL 26th, 2012
In the heart of downtown Jackson, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon this past March, crowds gathered for the grand opening gala of the newly renovated Jackson Symphony Orchestra (JSO) Performing Arts Center. The afternoon was the culmination of a $4.2 million dollar community capital and endowment campaign led by JSO campaign chairs Pat and Phil Willis, Frederick and Debby Davis, and Tom and Nancy Evanson.
Taking it all in was Mary Spring, who has proudly served for twenty years as the JSO Development Director. Her journey eloquently speaks to the power of community commitment and development as a fine art and the life blood of an arts organization.
The JSO strongly self identifies as a “community organization,” and integrating music, music education and musicians into the community has been its mission and strength. Fewer cities in Michigan have been harder hit by the recessionary times of the past four years than Jackson. Reports of losses in manufacturing jobs have become regular and ongoing news headlines. That’s precisely what makes this crowning achievement in development and support of the arts so stunning. Spring expands, “The community embraces not only the JSO but numerous arts venues and on a percentage Jackson ranks with cities that have large artistic programs and much larger resource pools. I am continually amazed at the support we receive and the enthusiasm of the residents of the community towards the arts.”
Spring’s first exposure to the JSO came through the gracious invitation of her employer Nathan Rosenfeld, the owner of Jacobson’s. At one time Jacobson’s served as the most luxurious shopping destination in Mid-Michigan, and Rosenfeld made Symphony tickets available to employees. Spring’s experience of the JSO led to the purchase of season tickets, and when she made the decision to stay at home with two small children, she decided to become involved as a volunteer with the Jackson Symphony Guild Board of Directors. She served as volunteer coordinator, chaired fundraising events, and assisted in the creation and launch of the JSO Community Music School. “When I was approached by the JSO to consider coming in as their Development Director, I frankly did not know what that meant. I did know that the JSO was a worthy organization, and as I learned more about the position, it became clear that ‘development’ meant going well beyond fund raising to include expanding and developing the role music plays in our community.”
Spring credits Stephen Osmond, the “highly talented and forward-thinking Music Director” that she has worked with for these last 20 years as Development Director as teaching her that “the JSO community includes everyone we touch; music performance is only a portion of what it means to be an orchestra.” By JSO calculations, 90% of the JSO budget remains in Jackson and the surrounding area, and 75 musicians and 12 faculty members are in its regular employment. JSO ticket promotions include 11 local restaurants and the JSO participates in reciprocal programs with local entertainment venues as well.
There is no greater visual statement to the vision of this Development Director and the JSO commitment to community collaboration than the water feature that graces the newly renovated Performing Arts Center. It was designed by local artist Steve Sayles, its assembly was donated by Midbrook, Inc., and all materials were donated by Alro Steel. It is described as “a piece of art that symbolizes the importance of collaboration between artist, musicians, manufacturing and corporations.” That statement also elegantly captures the gift, work and fine art of Mary E. Spring, JSO Development Director.