ASTORIA — Hit hard by public funding cuts, a nonprofit music group in Queens is appealing to the public to help keep it from playing its final note.
The Astoria Symphony Orchestra is running an online fundraising campaign, asking supporters to "Save Our Season," with donations so they can keep their upcoming concert season intact.
"We're trying to maintain the same high standard that we've always had, and maintain the same activity level," said director Silas Nathaniel Huff. "Our programming is too important."
In its 11th season, the Astoria Symphony Orchestra brings musicians together from across the five boroughs to perform concerts and events in Astoria throughout the year, covering classics like Beethoven and Mozart as well as new pieces from contemporary composers.
The group also includes the Astoria Symphonic Choir, founded in 2010, a vocal group that performs choral works alongside the orchestra, as well as the Lost Dog New Music Ensemble, which performs new works.
Eugenio Vargas, who auditioned for the Astoria Symphonic Choir three years ago and is now the group's assistant director, said the group gave him a chance to sing traditional choral music and connect with his neighbors.
"It wasn’t really until I joined the choir and met all of these amazing people...that I finally really felt settled. It really allowed me to find a community," he said.
In addition to member dues and ticket sales, the organization relies largely on public arts funding from the city and state — and available grants have been steadily dwindling since the economic crash in 2008, according to choir director Adam Eggleston.
"That sort of has snowballed to the point where we're kind of crossing our fingers, kind of going from concert to concert and hoping that we can afford to pay the musicians," he said.
The orchestra's musicians are paid a small amount for their performances, Eggleston said, though he and other staff members work on a volunteer basis. Ticket sales from concerts only cover a small fraction of expenses, which include renting performance venues, rehearsal spaces, buying required insurance for the group, plus sheet music and other costs.
Eggleston got the idea to start a Go Fund Me campaign, inspired by the success of other groups that have crowd sourced their fundraising online.
Launched late last week, the Astoria Symphony Orchestra has raised about 15 percent of its $10,000 goal. Donors are rewarded with perks like free CDs, season ticket passes and VIP seating. If they don't reach their goal within the next three weeks, no one gets charged, Eggleston said.
But he's hoping his neighbors will see the value in supporting what the symphony and choir does.
"This great organization has been working in the neighborhood for, it's about to be 11 years now, and supplying a service not only to musicians, but the community," he said.
"To be able to come out and see really great concerts by their neighbors in beautiful spaces...that is something worth keeping and worth saving, and worth insuring that it sticks around for another 10 years or more."