NAPLES — With one last stand in the pulpit, Philharmonic Center Founder and CEO Myra Janco Daniels hammered home a simple message: The Phil needs its supporters’ generosity after she departs.
“Stand by it. Support it and make it the best jewel of the arts in the country,” she declared. The occasion was the Phil’s annual community report, which Monday night drew an overflow audience for Daniels’ last presentation. Supporters — and a few people hoping in vain to learn who Daniels’ successor may be — filled Hayes Hall and had to be sandwiched into the adjacent pavilion.
Daniels retires at the end of the year, having directed both the building and operation of the center and the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra since the early 1980s. The center also holds a museum that opened in 2000.
She eschewed the traditional attendance and support statistics, which were supplied in a printed handout, to remind the 1,700-plus listeners of how far they had come with the Phil. The building, Daniels reminded them, was built before most of Pelican Bay was.
“In 1989, it came out of the ground — sometimes I don’t know how,” she conceded. She recalled the Phil’s opening night, when the curtain malfunctioned and wouldn’t rise.
“The orchestra should have played ‘The Impossible Dream,’” she quipped. “This has been an impossible dream, and you truly helped me make it come true.”
“It’s here because of three things: good, loyal boards of directors; a support staff who don’t know how to tell time and work their heads off — and audiences who come to the 400 performances a year that we offer.”
Daniels acknowledged that her dream for the arts in Naples, as well as the rest of the country, has had nightmarish moments over the last several years because of the recession. “And the arts aren’t out of it yet,” she warned.
“In many ways it’s solid,” she said of the Phil, “and in other ways it needs your help.”
The printed report didn’t specify whether the Phil operated in the black for the last fiscal year. It did note, however, the endowment fund had increased by $6.8 million for an overall fund total of $47.4 million.
Daniels personally offered some of the year’s high notes:
-- that 46,000 children from Collier and surrounding counties had been to the Phil for school arts programs.
-- that 6,500 adults availed themselves of the 120 classes offered by the Phil’s adjacent Lifelong Learning Center.
Daniels took several minutes to single out the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra as the cornerstone of the center.
“I think this orchestra is on the brink of something great,” she said. “I say it’s the best orchestra in this part of the country.”
Also on the agenda was the preview of the 2011-12 season, with the musical “Memphis” and a new production of “Les Miserables” among the headliners (a more complete list of the events appears on page 1D). But members of the audience seemed to be there to pay tribute to Daniels.
“What she’s done is incredible,” observed Calvin Gaeta. “They’ll never be able to replace her.”
“We’ll be sad to see Myra go. It’s probably time, and she decided that. But we’ll miss her terribly,” said Betsy McGhee.
“The Phil is really the reason we decided to move here,” added Al McGhee, her husband. “There are a lot of places with golf courses and beaches, but they don’t have a center like this.”