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Major donation will allow Cambridge Symphony Orchestra to reach 'new artistic heights'

$20K donation comes as the orchestra celebrates its 20th anniversary
Cambridge Symphony Orchestra president Michael Lawrie (left), Jill Summerhayes (centre) and conductor Sabatino Vacca (right) at Tapestry hall during rehearsal Thursday night.

A longtime supporter of the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra and one of the key people behind the formation of the CSO in 2004 made a $20,000 donation to the organization during Friday's performance at Tapestry Hall.

Jill Summerhayes, who writes a bi-monthly column for CambridgeToday, made the donation in memory of her late husband Stuart who was inspired in his lifetime to follow famous philanthropist Andrew Carnegie's philosophy of giving away wealth to help others and make a difference in the world.

“In the first third of your life you learn all you can, in the second third you earn all you can, and the final third you give it all away to make a difference," Summerhayes said.

"The CSO has been there for both high and low points of my life. My late husband Stuart was guest conductor for his favourite operatic piece a few months before he died. They played at Stuart’s celebration of life. After his death, missing hugs, every Sunday I attended the rehearsals, where I received hugs and listened to uplifting music," she told the audience ahead of Friday's concert.

"A few years later, David’s and my first date was at the Last Night of the Proms concert. The CSO played at Davids and my garden wedding. A couple of years ago some of them played for my 80 th birthday party so you can see why I love this orchestra."

Summerhayes, who was saddened when the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra declared bankruptcy last fall, said at a time when there is so much divisiveness, negativity, and war in the world, everyone "needs the beauty of live music to feed our souls."

"This is your orchestra, the volunteer board of directors, the musicians, Sabatino, our guest soloists and you have kept it going for almost 20 years," she said. "Tonight is about love and because I love this orchestra, I had arranged to leave them money in my will, but who knows when that might be. Now is when we need them, and they need us and our support."

The donation is considered the largest donation from an individual in the history of the orchestra, which made its official performing debut in June 2004.

"We will be celebrating our 20th anniversary season which is what inspired Jill to donate the amount that she did," wrote Sabatino Vacca, conductor and music director for the CSO in an email response to CambridgeToday.

"It will go a long way with our programming possibilities and helping to cover our expenses. The orchestra has really grown and developed over the years with thanks to supporters like Jill." 

Sabatino said patrons are always surprised when they attend one of CSO's concerts for the first time and he hopes donations like these will help attract a larger audience.

"Donations like this make it possible for us to achieve ever new artistic heights and meeting the cultural needs of our community with a wide range of musical offerings," he said. "Cambridge can be proud of its orchestra, and we look forward to serving our community for the next 20 years and beyond."