Sacramento Bee file

Michael Morgan directs the Sacramento Philharmonic, which along with its partner organization, the Sacramento Opera, received a $500,000 donation, money that provides a critical monetary infusion for the financially troubled groups.

Surprise $500,000 gift leaves Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic umbrella corporation ‘dumbfounded’

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 - 9:16 am

A $500,000 gift from the Joyce and Jim Teel Family Foundation will enable the combined Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic orchestra to soldier on amid challenging times for arts entities, according to the head of the recently merged organizations.

Rob Tannenbaum, general director of the Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance, said he and others with the organization were “dumbfounded” when two checks arrived in Friday’s mail ‑ $250,000 for the Sacramento Opera and $250,000 for the Sacramento Philharmonic.

The two entities merged last year under the performing arts alliance, which now oversees both of them.

On Monday, Tannenbaum said the timing of the gifts from the foundation tied to the founding family of West Sacramento-based Raley’s was dramatically perfect.

“We’ve had financial problems, like other arts organizations these days, and they’re pretty intense,” Tannenbaum said. “We were at the end of our wits. ... And now, in one fell swoop, our short-term problems are gone.”

Tannenbaum stressed that the alliance will continue to “take a hard look at our business model. There are clear areas where we need to make changes. Those are the financial realities...We’re so grateful for the (gift) and the breathing room it gives us to adjust our business model.”

The alliance also has been working with the city of Sacramento to seek financial investment in its arts organizations.

Prior to Friday’s windfall, the alliance in November benefited from a $75,000 matching grant from the Thomas P. Raley Foundation. The grant matched funds raised by the organization in the Sacramento region.

A media release notes: “Support from the Thomas P. Raley Foundation received in the spring of 2013 was integral to the merger of the two parent performing arts organizations and, as such, the foundation serves as the 2013-14 Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic season sponsor.”

Members of the Teel family could not be reached for comment Monday. But Tannenbaum said he contacted Joyce Raley Teel – the daughter of Raley’s founder Thomas P. Raley – to personally thank her for last week’s gifts. He said Teel spoke at length about her mother, E. Claire Raley, who stressed the importance of the arts and exposed her daughter to a wide range of arts programs in the community. The gifts, he said, were made in memory of E. Claire Raley.

Jim and Joyce Raley Teel serve as co-chairs of the Raley’s board of directors. Michael Teel, grandson of the Raley's founder, leads the chain as president and CEO. The family foundation was also the largest private donor to the expansion of the Crocker Art Museum, giving $14 million.

The latest gift follows last month’s Sacramento City Council vote to sublease the former Fremont School for Adults in midtown to a collective that includes the Sacramento Ballet, the opera and the Philharmonic. Other, smaller arts groups are also expected to be part of the project, dubbed the E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts.

Call The Bee’s Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.

Read more articles by Mark Glover

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