April 2023 – It Takes a Village
by Gordon W. Stanley
Well, despite the volume and voracity of jokes on the internet, we seem to have survived the frivolity of April Fools' Day. Admittedly, some were pretty creative. My personal favorite was of the National Park Rangers cleaning up the views at the Grand Canyon. Anyway, back to more serious topics.
So, how do you keep the stewards of a 108-year-old historical icon alive and thriving? That is the topic facing the trustees of the Spreckels Organ Society who work diligently to preserve, program and promote the magnificent Spreckels Organ, a jewel in San Diego's Balboa Park. Today there are so many forms of media to distract that it can be a challenging task to draw attention to this beautiful pipe organ, which hosts world-class musical concerts every Sunday afternoon, year-round.
Well, it really does take a village. Today most civic organs and many church and cathedral organs have disappeared due to the cost of maintaining and programming the instrument. Their pipes dismantled, blowers and wind chests silenced, the consoles rolled away…
But here in Balboa Park, because of the dedication of our volunteers and the commitment by our City leaders, the Spreckels Organ continues to produce live concerts to an average of 70,000+ visitors annually – and all at no charge to our guests. We estimate that about 60% of our visitors are from San Diego and the surrounding area, with the other 40% from destinations around the world. I am always delighted to meet families who have traveled thousands of miles to San Diego to experience the grandeur of the Spreckels Organ, and the artistry of Raúl Prieto Ramírez, our civic organist and artistic director.
The actual cost of continuing this live music experience is about $7 per guest – approximately $490,000 annually, not including funds set aside as part of San Diego's park budget. Seven dollars is a true bargain compared to a ticket for a Pops, Symphony Orchestra, Ballet, Theater or Opera ticket. And the reason we are able to maintain the costs this low is due to the generous support of our benefactors, including the City of San Diego, and a host of volunteers who help with everything from programming, fundraising, hosting and governance.
On any Sunday you will see our dedicated volunteers staffing our membership table and umbrella rentals, greeting and answering questions for visitors, setting up and managing the stage equipment, including sound, lighting and decorations for special programs. Behind the scenes you will find another group of dedicated volunteers who manage donations, update our website and weekly programs, and manage the overwhelming number of details related to the San Diego International Organ Festival held on Monday evenings throughout the summer. We have other volunteer committees specifically dedicated to raising funds, researching and developing grants, and programming shows specifically targeted to youth audiences. Finally, we have a committee of experienced and talented trustee volunteers who manage the society's investments, banking, tax returns, and all the administrative tasks required of not-for-profit organizations. All of this volunteer time and effort helps preserve the donation funds so they can be dedicated to preserving the organ, expanding the programs and bringing live music to you.
So, as you can imagine, we are constantly in search of talented individuals to join our ranks. If you are interested in being a part of Spreckels' tribe of volunteers, we encourage you to begin by supporting us with your attendance and donations. If you have a specific talent or skill, please call our office at 619.702.8138 and speak with Deborah Horger; email me, Gordon Stanley, at email@example.com ; or simply stop by our membership desk for a chat at one of our weekly Sunday 2pm concerts. We are currently recruiting and training new teacher volunteers, and based on your talent and interest, we will be happy to recommend that you consider one of the various committees that support the Spreckels Organ Society.
Working together as a village, with each of us sharing a little time, talent and treasure, we will keep the organ and the gift of live music going for another 100 years.