The Toledo Symphony and Toledo Ballet Association will merge the two organizations to create the Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts or TAPA, leaders announced at a Tuesday morning press conference.
The new partnership will create an umbrella organization under which the two will serve as equal partners in a three-prong relationship that will also include an education component for the community.
The new non-profit will come into existence on Jan. 1, 2019. The 15 trustees of the ballet will join the 38 trustees of the symphony to serve as the TAPA Board of Trustees; three ballet trustees will join 12 symphony trustees in TAPA’s executive committee. Pam Hershberger, the current symphony board chair will chair the new organization.
Each of the organizations will continue to operate as separate brands in their respective locations: the symphony in the Professional Building on Parkwood Avenue and the ballet at its studios on Monroe Street. The six staff members of the ballet will move to the Parkwood offices, joining the symphony’s staff of 30, simplifying operations and maximizing resources and outreach potential.
Zak Vassar, president & CEO of the symphony, will become the CEO of the combined organization. The ballet has operated for several months without an executive director. Lisa Mayer will continue in her role as the artistic director of the ballet, while Alain Trudel will continue as music director of the symphony.
“This partnership is a natural one,” Vassar said. “The Toledo Symphony and Toledo Ballet have worked together for over 70 years, with the symphony serving as the ballet’s pit orchestra. Our archives are rich with collaborations, and we have a great history of working together to entertain and inspire the community.”
Vassar also wanted to very clear on one point: “This is a visionary merger; this is not a ‘we have to move.’ We’re doing this because both organizations are strong and vibrant. We feel it will give us both a greater ability to do fantastic things artistically.”
The hope in the near future is also to combine their respective community education programs into a single entity at a location as yet to be decided. The TSO School of Music currently provides instruction to more than 350 students; the ballet school carries a certification from the American Ballet Theatre and welcomes 300 students annually.
The plan is that the merger will result in a more effective use of marketing, office, and ticketing resources. “The merging of the two organizations solidifies what has been a wonderful and long-running relationship between us,” Mayer said. “We are thrilled to take these two organizations into a new direction of collaboration, not only for the arts community, but for the entire Toledo region.”
In 2017, the organizations experimented with a shared service model for that year’s Nutcracker. The success of increased ticket sales and revenue, up 25 percent, ultimately led the organizations to explore the possibility of a long-term affiliation.
In late 2017, the symphony and ballet applied for funding from the Strategic Alliance Partnership program at the Toledo Community Foundation. This funding enabled them to secure the service of La Piana, a California-based consultancy that specializes in non-profit mergers.
Through a nine-month process of exploration, the two organizations finally agreed to form TAPA.
Now planning the 2019-2020 season, Mr. Trudel envisions several large and small collaborations. “The art of choreography can highlight the orchestral product in dynamic ways. The possibilities aren’t limited to existing ballets either,” he promised. “We can add dance to standard repertoire and re-imagine the visual component that typical performances lack.”
In a concluding remark, Marie Vogt, founder of the Toledo Ballet, added her enthusiasm to the merger. “Music has always empowered my life; it will be very helpful for the dancers to hear that lovely music! I am happy to see these two storied organizations pledge to build more wonderful performances for years to come.”
TAPA is celebrating the announcement this weekend with the symphony’s opening ProMedica Masterworks Series Concert. The second half of the performance will feature both organizations collaborating in excepts from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. The performance happens 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle, 2445 Monroe St. Tickets available through the Symphony Box Office, 419-246-8000 or toledosymphony.com.
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