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A Voice for the Good: The Fort Wayne Philharmonic

3Rivers is proud to support so many of the non-profit organizations that are committed to making our community a better place to live, work, and play, and we want to help spread the word about the difference they're making in our region. We’ve teamed up with 97.3WMEE to bring you A Voice for the Good podcast to do just that! We’re temporarily bringing the podcast to you via these Q&A online articles, as we’re doing our part to social distance and keep our community safe.

This article features the Fort Wayne Philharmonic—a local non-profit on a mission to “foster and instill a lifelong love of music across the orchestral spectrum through live performances and educational experiences.”

Fort Wayne Philharmonic Logo

We talked with Tara Mabry, the Grants & Development Associate at the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, to learn more about this organization and its work in the Northeast Indiana community.

How did the Fort Wayne Philharmonic come to be? What’s the history/story behind how the organization initially got started?

The Fort Wayne Philharmonic was established in 1944 by community members striving to provide residents with engaging, educational musical programs. Throughout its history, the orchestra's success has been due to local community participation and commitment to excellence. Currently, in its 79th season, it is one of the largest performing arts organizations in northeast Indiana dedicated to arts and culture!

What is the official mission of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and how is it currently being put into play?

The mission of the Philharmonic is to foster and instill a lifelong love of music across the orchestral spectrum through live performances and educational experiences. The Philharmonic does this in several ways through programming focused on inspiring the community with imaginative and compelling performances, as well as providing music education that instills an appreciation for the arts. Through large-scale orchestra concerts, community engagement programs, and in-person initiatives, the Philharmonic engages an audience of 70,000 children and adults each season.

Currently, we have a new series of community ensembles called “Stories in Music,” which are up-close-and-personal community concerts with music accompanying a children’s book. We also have a re-imagined family series combining music with popular stories such as Wild Symphony, Johnny Appleseed Goes to the Symphony, and the Remarkable Farkle McBride. We are putting story-centric family events into play throughout the community to nurture the next generation of music lovers. Teaching children and families about the joy of music remains a strong commitment of the Philharmonic.

Fort Wayne Philharmonic on Stage

How do you see the mission and vision of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic evolving in the future in the Northeast Indiana community? Where do you see your organization a year from now, or even five years from now?

The vision of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic is that it will be one of the most vibrant and financially healthy orchestras in the county and a cornerstone of the regional community. Programs are characterized by excellence and innovation in a variety of styles, media, and venues, and create inspiring and engaging experiences for all audiences. We are growing our regional presence by working with our strategic partners to bring classical music to beloved neighborhood organizations like the YMCA and our public libraries. The Philharmonic will serve as an essential partner in the region by creating these new partnerships to better expand our reach into the community. The Philharmonic will serve 11 counties outside Fort Wayne this year.

We recently released a five-year plan with goal fulfillment clustered under these four concepts included in the vision statement- organizational excellence, financial health, innovation, and community impact. Our first goal under this plan is to reach every resident in our region by growing our current base of live audiences, listeners, and supporters by offering a variety of musical experiences and educational opportunities in every county served in our region. We see our organization growing across northeast Indiana in an impactful and thrilling way.

Are there any exciting new developments, updates, or changes that have recently taken place at the Fort Wayne Philharmonic?

We have a new opportunity to make concerts more accessible and friendlier to broader audiences with our light afternoon matinee series. These shortened performances will be approximately an hour long and include excerpts from the evening’s concert and insights and repertoire from the conductor. We look forward to expanding our audiences and will continue to make adjustments to reach everyone in our community.

What kind of impact has the global pandemic had on the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, if any, and how has the organization pivoted or gotten innovative in response?

The Fort Wayne Philharmonic was forced to cancel the entirety of its scheduled large-scale musical performances through May 2021 and had to implement cost-saving measures and reductions in administrative staff. Since the pandemic, we have made changes with new collaborations and expanded our chamber and ensemble series performances. We adhered to the highest standards of fiscal health during this period and are well-equipped for the future as a strong, well-governed institution. We pivoted to digital initiatives and will expand this production and distribution to reach a wider audience for our educational programs especially.

Fort Wayne Philharmonic Youth Program

Could you share a standout story or two that really illustrates the impact the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and/or its programs has on those in our community?

  • We recently had our first musician go from our entry-level Club O program into the highly skilled Youth Symphony Orchestra. She says, “It feels unreal. I feel honored to have the Club Orchestra program beginning my third grade year and to be a part of it, through 5th grade. The program showed me not just how to play the violin but showed me, the love of violin I never knew I had. It also showed me a love for solo playing and for playing in an orchestra. Piecing together all instruments in one room for just a 2-hour rehearsal may sound crazy, and it is, but also sounds amazing in the end. If it was not for Club O, I don’t know if I would be playing the violin or even be where I am today.”
  • This year’s Club Orchestra’s summer program had 18 student participants that consisted of all tiers and alumni that learned six new songs in 10 days! As a culminating final event to close the program, students were accompanied by four adult supervisors that went to Goshen College overnight to share an experience with ECo-Sistema.
    The following feedback was shared with us by Club O Parent and chaperone: “The Club O Summer Program was a phenomenal experience for my son and the rest of the students lucky enough to participate. As a chaperone, I had a front-row seat to experience the growth the kids made in such a short time. The fact that the camp culminated with a trip to Goshen College to collaborate with different teachers and musicians made all the difference. I couldn't believe my 8-year-old son and the rest of the students were so enthusiastic through so many hours of practice. It was a joy to see all of their work pay off during the final performance. It was hard to believe they learned so many songs in only two weeks!”
  • Our Youth Orchestra (YOS) enrollment is strong, with 84 total musicians. Enrollment in the Junior Strings Orchestra has doubled from the season prior. These students have been invited to perform in Paris, France, during the summer of 2024 for the 80th-anniversary celebration of D-Day. The YSO would be representing the state of Indiana for this prestigious event.
    Our Youth Education & Family Concert Conductor who heads this program has been selected as the 2022 FAME Festival Composer-In-Residence. He will compose an orchestral piece for the YSO to perform at the FAME Festival on March 11 that includes compositional input from 22 elementary students throughout the Fort Wayne Community Schools. Webdell has done similar composing projects in the past, including clinics presented at the Indiana Music Educators Association (IMEA) State Conventions called "Composing Kids!" 

Are there other local non-profit organizations that the Fort Wayne Philharmonic works/partners with to enhance their programs?

We certainly work to maximize our community partnerships in order to reach as many new audience members and communities as possible. We have fostered relationships with local libraries, YMCAs, and the AWS Foundation. We also cultivated a partnership with Mainstay and Aspire Music Therapy and they will be featured as part of our pre-concert activities for all three family concerts this season. We are also working with the Boys & Girls Club, Erin's House for Grieving Children, Fort Wayne Youththeatre, Vincent Village, the Mad Ants, Fort Wayne Dance Collective, the Allen County Public library book mobile, the Tin Caps, and Sweetwater in our outreach efforts.

Are there opportunities for community members to volunteer at the Fort Wayne Philharmonic—and if so, how can they go about learning more?

Behind every successful symphony orchestra, there is an energetic, committed, and active group of volunteers! The Fort Wayne Philharmonic Friends consistently take the role of innovative leaders in supporting and promoting the orchestra.

The purpose of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Friends is to support the orchestra, discover and encourage musical talent, and promote musical education for people of all ages. Enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers are the core of the Philharmonic Friends. Throughout the season, they provide a place for everyone in their talented and creative group of music lovers. Your time, talent, and financial support are welcome in all areas of service.

Visit the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Friends website to learn more!

For information about Fort Wayne Philharmonic Board, Committee, and Moonshot volunteer opportunities, please call the Philharmonic Development Office at 260.481.0774.

Fort Wayne Philharmonic at an event in downtown Fort Wayne

In what other ways can community members support the Fort Wayne Philharmonic—be it through monetary donations, material donations, education, etc.? Do you have an itemized wish list of any kind or utilize options like AmazonSmile to raise funds?

The Philharmonic raises funds through our annual campaign, individual giving, and grant efforts. These funds contribute to our educational wish list and more. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more information on our concerts, community events, and giving opportunities.

Where can our readers learn more about the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and how can they reach out to you to learn more or get involved?

Readers can learn more about the Philharmonic by signing up for our mailing list at We regularly reach out with information about upcoming events and opportunities to connect with the Philharmonic!

Those interested can also contact us by phone for more information at 260.481.0774.

Fort Wayne Philharmonic performing an Aretha Franklin tribute concert

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about the Fort Wayne Philharmonic?

The Philharmonic takes great pride in the impact we are having on the community through our expansion of community programs. We also look forward to leaving a mark of economic impact by being downtown. We are committed to drawing in talent into the Fort Wayne area and demonstrating how great music can inspire the community. Our talented musicians remind everyone of why the Philharmonic is considered world-class and the envy of so many cities this size around the country. We will continue to embrace new opportunities, lean into challenges, and demonstrate the power of the arts to inspire, educate, and entertain!

Interested in featuring your non-profit on our website and on 97.3WMEE’s A Voice for the Good? Text "VOICE" to 46862! Please note that this may lead you to incur standard text messaging rates or other applicable charges consistent with your wireless carrier/mobile phone plan.

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