Can it survive? Montgomery Co.’s National Philharmonic orchestra launches critical fundraising effort

Facing the possibility of closing up shop for good, the National Philharmonic in Montgomery County, Maryland, launched a public fundraising campaign this week in a last-minute effort to stay alive.

The orchestra said it must raise more than $100,000 before the end of the month.

“Save the National Philharmonic,” reads an online petition. “We need $150,000 by July 31, 2019.”

The orchestra, which performs at Strathmore, recently announced it would likely go out of business because of financial problems after the Montgomery County Council declined to earmark $150,000 in the fiscal year 2020 budget.

Montgomery County had allocated $2.5 million for the Philharmonic over the course of more than a decade.

Council President Nancy Navarro and Councilman Craig Rice issued a statement noting the difficulties orchestras are facing, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

But there is a twist to the story that brings some potential light at the end of the tunnel.

Jim Kelly, a National Philharmonic violinist and a local businessman, said in an email that he already secured more than enough money.

“When I learned of the impending financial failure of the National Philharmonic, I decided that I cannot sit back and let that happen,” Kelly said in a statement.

According to Kelly, he has secured at least $270,000 in cash pledges.

“The effort does not involve any further assistance from the county government,” he said.

Kelly has been reluctant to release any more information about where the money is coming from, saying he will hold a meeting next Monday to talk about it.

“I will lay out the details of a possible plan and answer questions,” Kelly said. “I hope that other stakeholders will also be in attendance.”

The National Philharmonic performed at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville, Maryland, until 2005, when it became the Music Center at Strathmore’s ensemble-in-residence.

It has more than 30 performances annually and bills itself as “the largest and most active locally-based professional ensemble based in Montgomery County.”

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