Starting 35 on a High Note

The Glacier Symphony will begin its 35th season with a balanced budget, a full concert schedule and lower ticket-package pricing

By Molly Priddy
From left: Nick Montopoli, violin and banjo; Zach Matteson, violin; Karl Mitze, viola and mandolin; Geoff Manyin, cello. Courtesy Photo

In its 34 seasons, the Glacier Symphony and Chorale has wowed and charmed audiences with incredible talent found right here in the Flathead Valley.

But its 35th season, which kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 17, will start in a fresh, new way: with a balanced budget and a streamlined name, shortened to Glacier Symphony. (The orchestra and chorale will be referenced in specific performances, the organization said.)

The symphony announced a positive year-end balance sheet after its fiscal year ended on June 30, after several years of budget deficits. Executive Director Paul Larson, who took over the position in February, said the fundraising campaign that Glacier Symphony started in March paid off.

“A big part of it is getting our message out,” Larson said in an interview last week. “It’s about telling (potential donors) what we’re doing and asking them to support.”

As a relatively new addition to the symphony’s administration, Larson comes from a background in fundraising, and said the stable economy of the last couple years paired with old-fashioned conversations between community members has boosted the budget.

The fiscal year ended with a 22 percent increase in individual donations when compared to the previous year; contributions from individual donors were also met with a challenge match provided by the symphony’s board of directors.

The Glacier Symphony’s endowment fund, which provides long-term financial stability and is made up of a self-managed endowment and funds at four community foundations, now sits at $550,000. These donations aren’t used for operating expenses, but rather to provide a portion of interest income to ensure a more stable organization into the future.

Larson said much of the fundraising success came from the Flathead Valley’s spirit of generosity, and that his crew ran into many people who were unaware of what the symphony does, how accessible the music is and how talented the musicians are.

“A big part of it has been education, getting our message out,” Larson said. “It’s been telling them what we’re doing and asking them to support. It was challenging, but we have a very generous valley.”

The 35th season will include 27 concert events in the Flathead Valley for 2017/2018, starting with a special concert on Sept. 17 featuring the R. Carlos Nakai-Peter Kater duo, who will perform on Native American cedar flute and piano. The duo, who have a Grammy nomination under their belts, will perform tunes from their album “Ritual Music,” along with improvisations.

There is also a special gala event on Saturday, Sept. 16, featuring the duo along with several symphony ensembles. That private concert will be held at the Dancing Spirits Ranch in Whitefish from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with tickets for $125. The deadline for reservations is Sept. 7.

The Glacier Symphony’s Masterworks season begins Oct. 14-15 with “Beethoven 9,” also known as Symphony No. 9 in D Minor Choral, the composer’s final and greatest symphony. The performance will feature the orchestra, chorale and four voice soloists.

Following concerts will include Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Minor, called “Titan,” on Nov. 18-19, and then “Peter and the Wolf” for the Holiday Pops concerts on Dec. 9-10, featuring Christmas-season favorites.

Another holiday concert to keep in mind is the “Messiah Sing,” which will be an interactive experience for the audience, taking place Dec. 15-17. Concerts continue into 2018.

Tickets are available online, and Larson said package deals for tickets are at their lowest prices ever, with multiple tickets discounted 15 to 30 percent when purchased together.

Larson said the theme for the 35th season follows the motto “more music for more people,” with a focus on accessibility. This means there will be shows to catch everyone’s attentions, not just those for the classical music crowd.

“We try to make it accessible; we don’t want to make it an exclusive thing that’s only available to certain people,” he said.

The symphony is also working to build partnerships with groups that work with children, Larson said.

Anyone with questions or a desire to contribute can contact Larson directly via the Glacier Symphony, a setup that is part of the organization’s overall strength.

“We’re still small enough of an organization and small enough of a valley that the personal conversations are the most meaningful thing we can do,” Larson said.

For more information and a full concert schedule, call the Glacier Symphony at (406) 407-7000 or visit the website at

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