PORT ANGELES — The daughter of the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra’s first conductor is donating $100,000 to a growing Field Arts and Events Hall fundraising push as a matching challenge for naming rights to the music director rostrum in the performance hall.
Sharon Reuter, whose father, James Van Horn, was offered the conductor job in 1958, made the donation to recognize Van Horn’s impact on the arts community and to generate fundraising support for completing the center.
“While I’m not able to donate millions to this project, I thought that helping to finish this beautiful space would be a fitting tribute to my dad and the role he played here in Port Angeles,” the Port Angeles resident said in a Field Hall press release.
“I know that there are still hundreds of people he touched, piano students, audience members, and musicians, living in our community.
“I know I’ll never make the kind of mark in this community that my father did, but I hope that this gift honors and memorializes his place in the performing arts in Port Angeles.”
Construction of the $50 million, 41,000-square-foot project was put on hold in mid-March due to a fundraising slowdown driven by the pandemic with $14 million more to raise to reach the $50 million mark, organizers said.
Since what organizers like to call a pause, $7 million has been raised, and Field Hall board President Brooke Taylor has his sights set on contractors beginning to mobilize for construction in six or seven months and opening the venue’s doors in Spring 2023.
“I can’t promise March ,” he cautioned Thursday in an interview.
“It all depends on that huge, big variable of how fast the remaining $7 million comes in. We’ve got probably a dozen different initiatives going on which could be a big part of getting to the finish line.
“Until they come to fruition, it’s really hard to predict, so all that is, is an educated guess.”
But Taylor is excited about gifts such as Reuter’s, which Taylor said have multiplied thanks to scheduled, limited public access to the unfinished glass-walled building at the corner of North Oak and West Front streets in downtown Port Angeles.
“It’s been really remarkable what has happened since things began to open up this summer, and we could go back to some of our traditional fundraising approaches, particularly the ability to show the building to prospective donors,” he said.
‘That’s been our No. 1 tool. The building sells itself.”
The symphony orchestra’s origins date to the eight to 10 musicians who joined forces in Dr. Will Taylor’s living room in 1932 and the efforts Taylor, Biz Gehrke and Benjamin Phillips poured into getting it off the ground, according to the release.
A series of volunteer conductors led the group until Van Horn took the rostrum in 1958.
He was a working machine. Van Horn augmented his pay by teaching piano. He conducted the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church choir. He played at McDonald Funeral Home and sold trailers and mobile homes for Vern Burton, a community leader in his own right and memorialized in the naming of the Vern Burton Community Center.
Van Horn’s labors transformed what was referred to as a “scratchy little orchestra,” according to the press release, into a working, respected symphony group, a milestone in the city’s cultural history,
Through his efforts, a board of community members was created, numerous professional soloists from Seattle and other large cities gave performances, and works by living composers who attended in person were featured at Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra performances.
And the orchestra always remembered its roots, welcoming high school musicians to play with the pros.
To contribute to matching the challenge, visit https://fieldhallevents.org/van-horn/ or contact Field Hall at 360-477-4679.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].