Former President Bill Clinton highlights upcoming Philharmonic speaker series

— Four major announcements from Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts Chairman and CEO Myra Janco Daniels on Monday have staked new territory in the arts and letters landscape next season. All four came during the center’s annual report to the community at the Phil:

-- The Philharmonic has taken on a partner to present its own opera after forging a partnership with the Sarasota Opera, Daniels announced. The decision ends hopes for a collaboration between the Phil and Opera Naples.

-- Former President Bill Clinton has agreed to headline a 2011 speaker series at the Philharmonic. Also appearing in the series will be Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, and Jane Goodall, pioneering anthropologist and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute.

-- The Jay and Patty Baker Naples Museum of Art is in the process of acquiring a major art collection, a dozen pieces, from one of the pre-eminent women artists of the 20th century, Daniels told the audience.

Details will be announced soon, a news release from the Philharmonic Center said.

-- Finally, Daniels told the audience that the Phil will embark on a major fundraising drive. Calling the Phil “the proven product in a crowded field,” she announced the drive, called “Together We Can Do It!” Details can be found online at

Daniels asserted that the fiscal health of the Philharmonic Center is good, saying that “despite the economic downturn, we are having a good year, which demonstrates this community’s commitment to the arts.” The Phil’s endowment has increased by $7.7 million since June, she said.

Daniels devoted the most time to the Philharmonic Center’s needs.

“Almost every arts organization on a national scale is reporting that they’re about 30 percent behind the previous year. We’re not in that crowd,” she said. Daniels didn’t say what percentage the center may be behind. She did say there were no plans to dip into the $40 million endowment to balance the budget.

“We’re not broke. But we want to run on an even keel,” she said, adding that the building’s electricity bill alone, after cost-cutting efforts, is $37,000 per month, and that its operations require about 460 people.

The Philharmonic Center’s fundraising campaign is the third in the area in the past year, following Opera Naples’ plan to buy an $800,000 building for rehearsal, administration, storage and to rent out as a performing arts venue to other groups. The Bayshore Cultural and Performing Arts Center has held several events to raise consciousness for a property purchase and building.

The ArtsNaples World Festival has announced plans for an international festival in May 2012 for which it may be seeking donors.

Daniels did not speak about any of the other organizations, but said to the crowd that “everybody who has an itch wants to go into the arts business. They ought to go to a druggist, because the arts business is a tough business.”

Of the Opera Sarasota decision, Daniels said the Philharmonic board had “searched the country” and felt it had the perfect partner in Sarasota Opera, a 51-year-old professional organization.

Beginning with the 2010-11 season, Sarasota Opera will become the resident opera company of the Philharmonic Center, performing a series of programs in Naples, accompanied by the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra. Sarasota Opera’s Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi will conduct the events. Among the operas planned for the first season will be “La Cenerentola” and “La Bohème.” Daniels promised seasons would be longer in coming years.

The announcement follows a number of letters that have urged the Phil to partner with Opera Naples. The two organizations have met at least once but talks ended in a stalemate.

Steffanie Pearce, founder, chair and general/artistic director of Opera Naples, called the announcement “a setback for the community. There’s a sense of civic pride in having our own company.”

“We regret she made this decision to use Sarasota over a local company.”

Pearce and Daniels had talked not long after the company’s debut, but could not agree on terms. Pearce said Gerry Goldberg, who is vice chair, CEO and executive manager for the 4½ -year-old company, and Thomas Moran, managing director, had talked with Daniels at the end of last year.

“This will not affect anything we are doing this coming season,” Pearce added. “ If anything, it may have a galvanizing effect.”

Clinton will share his insights and observations on the topic “Embracing our Common Humanity: Meeting the Challenges of Global Interdependence in the 21st Century” during his talk on March 8, 2011. His speech will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

However, his appearance was not mentioned in Daniels’ talk or in the video presentation of upcoming events.

“I forgot to tell them about Clinton,” Daniels said after her speech. “I just forgot. And not on purpose, either.”

Other highlights of the 2010-11 season include: James Earl Jones will join the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra for the Opening Night Gala on Saturday, Nov. 6, narrating “A Lincoln Portrait” and other selections; the orchestra will perform special concerts with violin master Itzhak Perlman and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky; the Broadway show 9 to 5 The Musical will be featured in the Best of Broadway series; additional headliners include flutist James Galway, blues legend B.B. King, comedian Bill Cosby, pop star Michael Bolton, crooner Julio Iglesias and many others.

The Philharmonic Center for the Arts is located at 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd. in Naples.

© 2010 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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