He’s Got Next: Spurs Star Pau Gasol Joins San Antonio Symphony Advisory Board

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Spurs Center Pau Gasol jumps in the air as he is introduced.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Pau Gasol, the center for the San Antonio Spurs, is joining the San Antonio Symphony's advisory board.

Pau Gasol, the San Antonio Spurs’ center and a six-time NBA All-Star, has joined the San Antonio Symphony’s advisory board, symphony officials announced Monday.

Gasol, who is from Barcelona, Spain, will work actively to support the organization, said Kathleen Weir Vale, chair of the San Antonio Symphony board of directors.

“We are exceedingly grateful for Pau Gasol’s support for the Symphony as we finish an exceptional season and look forward to his participation on our Advisory Board and in upcoming creative promotional events,” Vale said. “Our next concert season will be electrifying.”

In early February, Vale sent out a special fundraising letter. In it, three “miracles” were mentioned: the show of public support for the resuscitated orchestra, a Bexar County matching grant of $350,000, and the hopeful third miracle of reaching the fundraising goal by March 31.

Gasol’s support might count as a fourth miracle, Vale said, confirming that Gasol approached the Symphony during its January travails. “He’s very eager to help,” she said.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who was instrumental in securing the County matching funds, said “I’m glad that’s he’s putting a spotlight on it, and greatly appreciate it. I hope people will pay attention to what he’s saying, that it’s very important for our community, and that we’ll be able to raise the money.”

Wolff said Gasol’s example should be followed by others. “I wish we’d have more local business leaders step up, too,” he said.

Among the plans Vale discussed for Gasol is making a promotional video with “another megastar,” whose identity she would not yet reveal.

Throughout his NBA career, Gasol has been active in charitable work. He received the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for 2011-2012 for promoting programs aimed at children’s health and education.

After visiting locations around the world since 2005 as a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Spanish committee ambassador, in 2013 Gasol and brother Marc, who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies, formed the Gasol Foundation, focused primarily on reducing childhood obesity and promoting healthy lifestyles.

“He’s definitely … very enlightened,” Vale said of Gasol, who also actively supported the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra when he played for the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, she said. The 7-footer signed with the Spurs as a free agent in 2016.

Gasol is known for being an avid fan of the performing arts, and was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying “I’m a big supporter of arts and culture … I think they’re traditions that we need to continue to pass on to younger generations.”

Sebastian Lang-Lessing, the Symphony’s conductor and music director, sees both his organization and the Spurs as essential cultural symbols of San Antonio. He also sees similarities between orchestral music and basketball in that both are team sports.

“You hire the players, you get them to play together, and you try to highlight the strengths of everybody,” Lang-Lessing said.

Gasol’s support might also bridge a perceived generation gap between older Symphony supporters and younger people essential to its continued survival. Gasol being seen as “a hero for so many young people [and as someone] who thinks classical music is actually cool as an art form, helps enormously,” Lang-Lessing said.

Frank Stenger-Castro, a former Symphony Society of San Antonio board member who recently re-joined as vice chair, said that “Mr. Gasol’s love of classical music challenges the stereotype” of the typical classical music fan. His joining the advisory board “helps convey the message … that the Symphony is indispensable to the quality of life in San Antonio.”

Observing Gasol on and off the court, Vale said, “he’s a great leader, I think he’ll be very inspiring.”

Vale formed the new advisory board to help the Symphony with outreach and building support among members of the community. She said other “prominent members of the community” on the board include William Chiego, former executive director of the McNay Art Museum, and Clay Jett, South Texas regional president of Bank SNB.

“I think their wisdom and their guidance is very important,” Vale said as the Symphony moves forward with fundraising and reorganization.

Interested members of the community may donate here.

8 thoughts on “He’s Got Next: Spurs Star Pau Gasol Joins San Antonio Symphony Advisory Board

  1. This addition is lost on me. If you keep running your programs at a loss, then how will the addition of a sports star help? And Wolff asks for business leaders to step up? I thought they already did in trying to change the way the organization is run. I really don’t understand how “leaders” would keep asking the public/companies to keep throwing good money after bad. The current model does not work. If anything has been proven over the last few years, it’s that. It’s time for new leadership to find the right track for the symphony. The people involved now want nothing but status quo.

    • There have been forces working to scrap the symphony’s full time status and debase it to a part-time, per-service gig. I believe this is what you are referring to by mentioning a change in organization. While this would certainly be much cheaper, the quality of music making would suffer immensely, and we would lose the current musicians as valued members of our community. The public has spoken loudly in their desire to preserve the symphony in its current state, and now it’s time for the city and it’s people to come forward and take ownership. It gives me hope that someone with as much celebrity as Gasol has stepped up to the plate. Let’s keep this momentum going.

      • It’s not about cheaper. It’s about figuring out to make it profitable or at least breaking even to put on a show. If the symphony can’t figure out how to do that, and continues to rely on the generosity of companies and the public – oh and by the way, how long does public support last? Right now there is momentum because of the tug on the collective heart strings of our community but how long will that last? Will they buy tickets? Show me the data on what the attendance of the symphony is like over the last 5 years – it will constantly be knocking on doors and pleading for money to fund the gap.

        Personally, I want the symphony to stay. But it’s clear that keeping the status quo of operations will not work. If it did work, it wouldn’t be in the mess that it’s now. It’s time for a change in thinking on how to operate it. Not a focus on short term “momentum” that won’t last very long.

          • William – great argument for not trying. Best. Argument. Ever.

            For those of you outside of San Antonio that may be reading this, please don’t think San Antonio is full of people like William that don’t want to try. We have progressive people that are trying to make San Antonio better.

          • They haven’t figured it out yet, but this is what trying looks like.

            http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20170417/ENTERTAINMENT/170419886/philharmonia-hopes-to-disrupt-the-classical-music-world-with-a-new-type-of-symphony

            I know it’s hard for people to change. I know it’s hard for people to try new things. Some people just don’t have the DNA to try new things, to try and figure out how to make things better. To try and fail. And adjust. And experiment again. To try and find the way. I get it. So for those of you reading this that do want to try, I encourage you to get involved so we can really try to save the symphony while the status quo people continue to try to pull on the heartstrings and guilt us all into donating money to an unprofitable organization.

  2. This is wonderful news! I love sports/arts crossovers, and am a fan of both the Spurs and classical music, which certainly deserves a younger, hipper audience!. I have a soft spot too for the fact that Pau Gasol is Catalan. I lived several years there and am fluent in the Catalan language—but there aren’t many Cat-speakers in this city!

  3. Would be really interesting to see an evaluation of the Symphony Society of San Antonio through Charity Navigator. Currently no rating for SSA.
    Dallas Symphony Orchestra evaluation is there. 90.90 out of 100.
    Austin Symphony Orchestra evaluation: 83.20/100.
    Houston Symphony Society: no rating. Actually, through Charity Navigator there are a few organizations named something similar. None of them rated.
    Maybe someone at Rivard Report conduct some sort of analytical reporting on the actual state of our symphony and how well/bad it’s run compared to equivalent symphonies around the country.

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