Friday, April 29, 2011

Charitable Tax Deductions Up For Grabs?

First, a quick introduction. My name is Beth Coughlin. I write grant applications for MYA and generally try to help out when possible. So here I am writing a blog post.
It all started when I forwarded an email to Karen this morning. The email was from the Donor's Forum, an advocacy group for non-profits based in Chicago. It asked me to contact Senator Dick Durbin and urge him to protect the charitable deduction as a fair and important incentive for charitable giving. The tax deduction that donors receive for individual contributions to non-profits is up for grabs in the current budget debate. This tax benefit for charitable giving has been in place since 1917. The Donor's Forum included a Fact Sheet

So anyway, I forwarded the email to Karen suggesting that she might want to mention this issue in the MYA blog. She wrote back asking if I had time to put a post together, since she is swamped with preparations for the big concerts this weekend. So here I am. No good deed goes unpunished.
While I do not think that people only contribute to organizations like MYA because they will get a charitable donation deduction on their taxes, I do think that it is a nice perk and makes some people, like myself, set aside a few hours every December 30 or 31 to make donations before the tax year is over. I also believe this deduction incentive is another way that our society can recognize the value of the work that non-profits do.
I recently completed the annual Illinois Arts Council grant application. Two years ago, Illinois joined the Cultural Data Project, an effort organized by the Pew Foundation to collect data on arts organizations in each state with the goal of documenting their role in the economy - in addition to their cultural role. The Illinois Arts Council has required all grant applicants to participate in the Cultural Data Project and it has been my little ongoing project to collect and enter reams and reams of data on MYA's operations over the years. One of the items of information I have had to track down is the annual amount of charitable contributions received from individuals and how many individuals gave them. This is an important marker of an organization's engagement with its community. Whenever I write a grant, I include information on what percentage of MYA families have made donations to the cause. A strong percentage shows a belief in and appreciation for what MYA tries to do for all its members and its community.

I do worry that without the tax deduction, donations might drop a bit. What do you think?  How would losing the charitable tax deduction affect your donating habits?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Menahem Pressler: The Consummate Artist and Teacher

This afternoon was another reason I love my job.  Allan saw that Menahem Pressler was going to do a master class for Northwestern University students this week.  It was an opportunity to reconnect with someone he has respected for years and who was our guest artist back in 2001. He called and asked if he might be willing to coach two of our piano trios, and he graciously said "Yes!"  Mr. Pressler is Professor of Piano at Indiana University, and founding pianist in the Beaux Arts Trio.  This is the first chamber music ensemble I discovered on my journey of falling in love with classical music.  Before Allan started IU, I had discovered symphonies and solo bass repertoire (not too exciting, I'm sorry Allan and all you bassists out there!), but discovering chamber music and particularly the Beaux Arts Trio's recordings of the Mendelssohn piano trios, provided so much listening enjoyment.

This afternoon Mr. Pressler worked with Trio Bravo and Trio Fantastique, two of MYA's experienced piano trios.  The students quickly realized that this man knew their pieces. . . every note. . . every phrase. . . every nuance of the music.  And, he was quick to point out wrong notes!  It was just an unbelievable opportunity for the students to witness this amazing musician with a wealth of information.

Thank you, Mr. Pressler!
Trio Bravo:  Jorie Butler Geyer, violin; Hannah Kay, piano; James Stinehart, cello
Trio Fantastique:  Amy Pikler, violin; Frank Wu, piano; Emily Camras, cello

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Notes

Only two families showed up this morning for orchestra rehearsals!  We're taking an Easter/Passover break this weekend, but there's always students practicing in our beautiful facility.  Today, we had several groups practicing for the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition which is held in South Bend, Indiana, May 13-15, and dedicated chamber musicians who took advantage of the time available to rehearse with their ensembles! 

Last Sunday, three of our ensembles were featured on the Pilgrim Chamber Players concert which they present as "Stars of Tomorrow."  This has become the most popular concert in their series and is offered free to the public.  It was another great performance opportunity for our students, and we appreciate this organization's  interest in promoting young musicians.

Quartet Sienna, coached by Rami Solomonow
Trio Fantastique, Coached by Charlie Pikler
Trio Bravo, Coached by Desiree Ruhstrat
First day of bicycling to MYA!  Hope the spring weather continues!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Children Introduced to Woodwind Music!

What a surprise today!  There's so much music going on at MYA that we can hardly keep up with it.  Parents know what their own children are doing, but I just had to take time this afternoon to tell you about a musical experience we had at the MYA Center this morning.  One of our woodwind quintets (Tori Calderone, flute; Liah Watts, clarinet; Abigail Chow, oboe; Sarah Farbman, bassoon; and Kirsten Lopez, horn) prepared and performed a concert for a big crowd of little dudes and their parents.  The title of their show was "Does Your Brain Have a Soundtrack?" It was just a perfect mix of music and demonstration of individual instruments and just the right amount of time to hold the audience's rapt attention. 

Hopefully, M.C. Chow, dad of Abigail, got a recording we can post on wmya.fm.  Thanks to Jessica Jordan, who spread the word amongst her Miniature Young Artists students and provided a nice reception for the audience and performers.   We're so proud of these students who came up with the idea and implemented it!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Weekend of Music

Midori Hisaeda; Kanae Tsuruga; Hideko Amano, Consul General of Japan, George Hisaedo
The weekend was full of music!  In addition to the rehearsals getting ready for our final large ensemble concerts the next two weekends, Saturday night was the last of this year's Music at the Fort concerts. Hideko Amano, an outstanding flutist and dedicated teacher, performed a wonderful program of romantic flute works.  Her final selection, Furusato (My Homeland) was poignantly appreciated by the large number of Japanese in attendance, including the Consul General of Japan and his wife, Midori.  Both the Consul General and his wife are music lovers.  Midori takes violin lessons from Sonia Hadar, and her husband, George, told me he practices trombone two hours a day.  The concert was dedicated to help support the disaster relief efforts from the earthquake in Japan.  Instead of wine and cheese, guests were served a sampling of exquisite teas and ginger biscuits from from The Green Teaist in Lake Forest, making for a wonderful evening.

If you also wish to make a donation for the Japan Disaster Relief, you can send a check to: 
Consulate General of Japan
(Attn:  Disaster Relief:  Japan's earthquake)
737 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 1100
Chicago, IL  60611

Monday, April 11, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Benefit

What a beautiful evening last night.. . .worth all the work that so many people put into making this a wonderful event!  Thought today a few photos might capture some of the evening for those who couldn't attend.