Scott Ball / Rivard Report
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.