The Galveston Symphony Orchestra opened it’s 2017-18 season this month at The Grand 1894 Opera House. It was a performance that included internationally renowned cellist Brinton Averil Smith in a masterful performance, a Cello Concerto by Antonin Dvorak. Moreover, the orchestra opened with “Galveston Survives” by the late Izola Collins, a local musician, author, conductor and community treasure.

Conductor Trond Saeverud created a program that honored the traditional, yet instilled, local pride while encouraging any aspiring musician in the house.

However, it was something not featured during the performance that really stood out. The entire performance; the cost of absolutely everything was underwritten by one local businessman, Tom Schwenk, a local Realtor with the House Company.

This is an era when the fine arts are struggling. Several large U.S. cities have orchestras that are literally facing bankruptcy. Many arts organizations are suffering as older consistent donors “age out” and younger donors have new social media-driven giving patterns. Given that reality, it’s important to understand why Schwenk, a regular donor to the symphony, chose to support the Galveston Symphony Orchestra at that level.

“I believe the symphony speaks to the quality of life,” Schwenk said. “As a businessman and Realtor, anything I can do to contribute to the increase the quality of life in Galveston is a win-win.”

Let’s add some other good reasons for supporting and coming to the Galveston Symphony Orchestra:

1. The Texas Cultural Trust, in its 2017 State of the Arts, explains that the arts generate $5.5 billion dollars each year to the Texas economy. Simply put, in our tourist economy, an evening at the symphony often means a meal out or shopping on The Strand. It all adds up.

2. The same report explains that children who study the arts are less likely to drop out of school, have higher passing rates, higher test scores and have higher attendance rates than their peers.

3. Obviously, live music is a stress reliever. Those who had losses in Harvey could benefit from a stress break. Those of us who survived Ike and tend to relive our suffering each hurricane season could also use a stress break.

Dr. Elizabeth “Bets” Anderson, current president of the orchestra board, would like to invite Hurricane Harvey survivors to take a break and enjoy a free ticket to the Nov. 5 concert on behalf of the board of directors. Please send an email to Please provide your contact information and the number of tickets needed by Nov. 2.

During the season opening, I was surrounded by parents who brought their well-mannered children of all ages. Remember that no one knows the future or which one of those kids will grow up to be the next Mozart or Leonard Bernstein.

The Galveston Symphony Orchestra really is, as Schwenk said, a win-win for the quality of life in Galveston.

Marsha Wilson Rappaport lives in Galveston.


(1) comment

Jennifer Lance

"Music has charms to soothe a savage breast" wrote William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, 1697.

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