YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Symphony Society entered a management contract with the Stambaugh Auditorium Association in December of 2020, and it took shape last year.
Under the agreement, Stambaugh now handles daily management and operations of the DeYor Performing Arts Center, which is owned by the Symphony Society.
The goal was to preserve and best use two of the premier performing arts venues in Youngstown and return the orchestra to the stage, says Kelly McKee-Foos, marketing director.
That goal became a reality in 2021, as the YSO gave several performances after a long layoff caused by the pandemic.
With a dearth of event bookings lingering into 2020, the management team reached out to past and potential clients. The venue was able to schedule and execute 93 events in 2021, McKee-Foos says.
Cleaning and repair projects were undertaken at the start of 2021. The terrazzo floors were restored and the kitchen was fully renovated. New electrical service was installed to the Powers Auditorium projector and spot booth. And many electrical and plumbing repairs were made throughout the downtown building.
More than 250 seats were repaired in Powers Auditorium and a new fiber data line was installed as part of a complete upgrade to the computer network in the building.
During the 2021 calendar year, $804,400 was raised to support operations, programs and capital projects for the Youngstown Symphony Society and DeYor Performing Arts Center. This figure includes $559,000 from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and $143,000 from local foundations for the kitchen renovation project.
The Fore! the Arts Golf Classic was launched as a joint fundraising event between Stambaugh Auditorium and the Youngstown Symphony Society, raising $70,000.
The Youngstown Symphony Orchestra suffered a great loss in 2020 when its popular music director, Randall Craig Fleischer, died. The shutdown of the venue because of the pandemic and other issues raised uncertainty about the YSO’s future, leaving musicians concerned whether it would ever return to the stage.
But planning for a new season began in May and the 2021-2022 season was announced a few months later. The YSO began the eight-concert season Sept. 19 at Powers Auditorium. The new season included performances at both the DeYor and Stambaugh Auditorium – the YSO’s original home.
The Youngstown Symphony Orchestra and DeYor Performing Arts Center’s social media accounts saw an increase in reach and engagement compared to the previous year. Facebook followers for YSO grew by 33% and DeYor’s grew by 8%.
Using the resource of The 1926 Podcast, established by Stambaugh Auditorium, expanded accessibility to the organization. Episodes featured guest artists and conductors and the orchestra librarian.
As performing arts venues reopened in the second half of 2021, new challenges arose. Ever-changing pandemic conditions brought uncertainty to ticket buyers who were worried about safety. In addition, touring shows canceled and some performances were postponed.
As venues reopened across the region, a glut of concerts led to an oversaturated market and slow ticket sales, McKee-Foos says.
Looking ahead, the Symphony Society intends to create more collaborations with local arts groups.
The effort got off to a successful start in September with a six-show run of the musical “The Color Purple” presented jointly by the society, Stambaugh Auditorium and the Youngtown Playhouse. It was the first time the three organizations worked together and the first time the Playhouse presented a show in Powers.
“The Color Purple” exceeded expectations, McKee-Foos says, grossing over $140,000.