2018-04-18, Lonnie Klein, Economic Impact of the Las Cruces Symphony

After President Lya Jordan called us to order, Mary Ellen McKay gave the invocation from “God’s Little Instruction Book.”  After leading the pledge, President Lya called forward Greg Fant, who led the singing of “Do Re Mi” from “The Sound of Music.” 

President Lya introduced visiting Rotarians and guests.  Clayton Allbright from the Mesilla Valley Club reminded us of their annual talent show this Sunday, 3 pm (doors open at 2:30), at the Rio Grande Theatre, and that Dragonfly, a new restaurant downtown, would donate 5% of a meal total to the project; wear your Rotary pin to get the contribution.  Assistant Governor Sunny Kellerman visited from Silver City.  Fran Kemp returned for a lunch visit and received her Paul Harris Fellow certificate.  Kiwanian (I have no idea how to spell that) Andy Bischof visited with Jim Maxon.  Two of our high school students of the month were also in attendance.  There was no meet and greet…we were so busy that many didn’t notice. 

There were a large number of happy dollars, several related to our speaker.  Mary Ellen let us know she would be happy to sell raffle tickets (cost $50/prize $2500/limited to 400 tickets) supporting the Symphony Association.  John Hernández was, as usual, “mighty glad to be here today.”  Jim Maxon was happy to have visited with the NMSU Rotaract Club at the NMSU International Festival.  Jeff Brown’s daughter has returned from Europe.  Kiwanian Andy was happy to support the causes of our Rotary club.  Alison Smith was happy to visit about the talent show.  Fran Boldt is happy to be attending the district conference.  Patty, a former Kiwanis president, was happy to have Andy visit; someone (it wasn’t Patty and I didn’t write it down) reminded us of Patty’s dad’s joke:  “Kiwanis is an ancient Indian word meaning ‘waiting to get into Rotary.’”  Lya was happy to be heading to Las Vegas later in the day.  Jim Scott reminded us that this is his 70th year in a service club after being a Jaycee and an Optimist before joining our club. 

Several cards circulated, wishing better health for Sunny Parish and Gary Brockway, and offering condolences to Barbara Nelson at the passing of her father, former Rotarian Arnold Nelson. 

The Program

Sue Groth, April program chair, told us that she did not believe our speaker needed much introduction and handed him the microphone.  We heard from Rotarian Lonnie Klein, music director and conductor of the Las Cruces Symphony at New Mexico State University, first about the preparations for the talent show and rehearsals where young people received coaching from theatre legend Mark Medoff, local dance leader Debra Knapp and himself.  He then began his discussion of the economic impact of the orchestra in the local community.

He began with a history of the orchestra, from its 1962 beginnings under Dr. John Glowacki as a student/community orchestra.  In 1973, Dr. Marianna Gabbi, now the conductor of the community New Horizons Orchestra, came to NMSU and began to move the orchestra in a different direction, creating a non-profit entity, the Las Cruces Symphony Association, to receive support for the group, and a group for key community supporters, the Symphony Guild.  Dr. Gabbi also began to pay guest artists and some of the musicians.  Dr. Klein is only the third leader of the orchestra; he is proud of the continuing collaboration between the university and the community to make possible a thriving performance organization. 

The orchestra has about 75 players, depending on the orchestration of the works included in a program.  Ten of those are members of the university music faculty, including the resident string quartet, about whom a strong academic string program has developed.  Six of those undergraduate string players are members of the orchestra; another half-dozen or so students play in the ensemble on percussion and winds.  Several alumni who are local music teachers also play in the symphony along with other local players and some from out-of-town. 

Every player is paid on a sliding pay scale, based on responsibilities.  The orchestra’s budget now exceeds a half million dollars, growing from $156,000 in 1999 by adding corporate sponsorship and additional fundraising.  Each of the classical and pops performances has 500 people on Saturday, and another 500 people on Sunday, buy tickets, gasoline, and restaurant meals around each performance.  The $33,000 local payroll for each performance week also goes into the local economy, along with the related payroll taxes. 

He talked briefly about the cost of rehearsals.  Paying the ensemble involves a payroll of $44 for each minute of rehearsal time.  This makes the time exceptionally important; there is no wasted time. 

Dr. Klein discussed the high quality of guest performers, and believes the Las Cruces Symphony compares favorably with those in El Paso and Albuquerque.  In addition to classical performances, the group has a goal of playing contemporary music.  He discussed the commissioning of a work, “Remembering Icarus,” composed by St. Paul Sunday Morning host Bill McGlaughlin.  (St. Paul Sunday Morning was a weekly radio program featuring live classical performances which ended a 32 year run in 2012.)  The Symphony gave the work’s premier performance in 2005; it has been featured on the American Public Media program “Performance Today.” 

The orchestra has have been involved in a number of other performances.  For example, Western New Mexico University sponsors a performance in Silver City; this year’s event was attended by over 900 people.  The third in an annual series of “Pops Under the Stars” brought 1200 people to the Las Cruces Plaza last September. 

Dr. Klein discussed a couple of upcoming events.  Working with the Diocese of Las Cruces, the Symphony will accompany Mexico City opera singer Barbara Padilla on May 24th; the concert by the winner of “America’s Got Talent” will benefit repair of a mission church in Anthony.  The “Pops Under the Stars” event will be on Friday, September 9, on an NMSU home football weekend. 

After the Program

Patty gave the can report.  We collected $110 and donated it to the Symphony.  The pot is up to $163.  Les Smith got the winning ticket, the four of hearts, and a Starbucks gift card; the pot will continue to grow.  President Lya closed the meeting with the 4-Way Test and headed to the airport.

<prior week   following week>

Guests of Rotarians



Fran Kemp


Greg Smith

Allison Smith

Andy Bischof

Jim Maxon

Isobel Hernández

John Hernández

Visiting Rotarians


Home Club

Clayton Allbright

Las Cruces Mesilla Valley

Allison Smith

Las Cruces Mesilla Valley

Lonnie Klein

Las Cruces Mesilla Valley

AG Sunny Kellerman

Silver City

Student Guests



Richard LeFevre


August Rannow









Submitted by Bill HartyJay Jordan