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Florida Orchestra's pops gain corporate sponsor

By JOHN FLEMING

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 22, 2000


TAMPA -- For the first time in four years, the Florida Orchestra has a sponsor for its pops concerts. St. Petersburg-based Raymond James Financial signed a three-year deal to underwrite the pops series, which opens this weekend. The sponsorship is worth $225,000 to the orchestra, said Julie Swanson, director of development, in making the announcement Thursday.

New York Yankees boss and Tampa resident George Steinbrenner underwrote the series until 1996-97. Steinbrenner dropped the sponsorship when he got into a flap with the orchestra over programing. He withheld a pledge to the orchestra over his desire to have bigger names as guest artists on the series, but their fees were prohibitively high.

This season, with Marvin Hamlisch, Peter Nero, Doc Severinsen and others on the eight-program pops series, ticket sales projections are up. "We've got a chance of a 90 percent sellout of all the concerts," said Jan Hickin, director of marketing. "The name recognition is broader in scope than for masterworks."

The orchestra is searching for a new pops music director. Skitch Henderson stepped down after 15 years in the post, though he returns twice this season to guest conduct.

Corporate underwriting of orchestra concerts has grown from $450,000 in 1998-99 to a projected $650,000 this season, Swanson said. "Corporate sponsorships of this magnitude are essential to any orchestra's financial good health.'

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