Turning money into music: Symphony foundation marks 30th anniversary with challenge grant | Lifestyle

todayDecember 3, 2023 4

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The Grand Junction Symphony Foundation has launched a $30,000 Challenge Grant to raise $60,000 in honor of its 30th anniversary in 2024. Three grant donors have each given $10,000 toward the challenge, which the foundation seeks to match through additional donations equaling $30,000 or more by March. The challenge grant funds will go into the foundation’s endowment, allowing it to finally reach $2 million. The foundation was formed in 1994 to care for an endowment that provides an annual financial contribution to the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra and supports the symphony during times of financial hardship. The foundation currently gives 4.5% of the endowment’s interest to the symphony annually. While the foundation supports the symphony, it is a separate nonprofit. To give toward the challenge grant or to learn more about the foundation, go to

When Wanda Putnam arrived in Grand Junction, she missed music.

Classical music sweeping over her as bows moved together on strings, the swell of a crescendo, the clear top note from a trumpet — she had left those live performances behind in Washington, D.C., when she moved away in 1970.

Fortunately, the music came back to her in 1978 when she went to a concert at Robinson Theatre at what was then known as Mesa College.

“I remember the first concert. I sat in the back of the auditorium, and I just balled. They could play real music,” Putnam remembered.

Putnam had been part of a group of community members that had worked toward the 1978 creation of the Grand Junction Musical Arts Association, which later became the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra.

She recalls sitting in the first symphony executive director’s dining room, going through file cards with names, searching for possible symphony supporters.

In a way, Putnam has never stopped searching for those supporters, although things have changed through the years as the symphony has grown in musicians, repertoire and organizational size.

Putnam was the first president of Grand Junction Symphony Foundation board, a nonprofit that will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2024.

She continues to serve as a board member for the foundation, which recently announced a $30,000 Challenge Grant to raise $60,000 in honor of its anniversary.

And Putnam is searching for supporters.


In late 1984, Benerita Urruty gave $10,000 to the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra.

Urruty and her husband, Jean, owned a farm where Canyon View Park is now and built the Basque handball court Plaza Urrutia.

Urruty made her donation in cash, carried “in a sack, literally. A paper sack. And gave it to Jane Quimby,” Putnam said.

Quimby, who was Grand Junction first female mayor, was a symphony board member at the time of the donation.

The $10,000 was deposited into a C.D. at Columbia Savings and Loan at Fourth Street and Rood Avenue, and it started growing.

Unfortunately, when Urruty made her donation, “it was tough times,” said Gregg Kampf, a local attorney and former symphony board member with the symphony who also has served as counsel for the foundation board through the years.

Reverberations from Black Sunday — May 2, 1982, when Exxon laid off thousands and the oil shale bust began — were still being felt, said Sally Prinster, a symphony supporter who later on became a member of the foundation board.

“I think several of us had seen other orchestras across the country go broke,” Kampf said.

They thought it would be good idea to have a rainy-day fund for the symphony if tough times came and to provide steady support for its future, he said.

The group definitely had taken notice when the Denver Symphony Orchestra went bankrupt in 1989.

“They had an endowment,” Putnam said. “From the endowment the Colorado Symphony Orchestra was formed.”

So Urruty’s growing donation became the start of an endowment in 1990, that led to the formation of a trust in 1994 that was separate from the symphony, that later became the Grand Junction Symphony Foundation.

Its mission is to financially support the symphony by growing the endowment and giving a percentage of the interest annually to the symphony.

“There are very few orchestras of our size that have an endowment fund,” Putnam said.


The foundation currently gives 4.5% of the endowment’s interest annually to the symphony. The symphony then uses those funds to pay salaries and support its various programs.

This year, the foundation’s donation was about $60,000, said Adele Suydam, the interim president for the foundation.

Each year, the foundation puts on a fundraiser to cover its operating costs, but other than that, the funds it receives go to the endowment and the future of the symphony, she said, noting that the endowment is managed by the Western Colorado Community Foundation.

Suydam became part of the symphony foundation board more than 15 years ago, after Putnam asked her to consider joining.

“I so believe in foundations and endowments, and so I said, ‘Sure! I’ll come on the foundation board.’ Little did I know, she had designed it so I would step in as president. … To tell you the truth, I thought Wanda would be president for life!” Suydam said.

Suydam was part of the board when the endowment finally hit $1 million and when the pandemic ground nearly all performances to a halt in 2020.

That year, the foundation was able to give the symphony $70,000 in addition to its annual gift, enabling the symphony to avoid furloughs and layoffs, Suydam said.

“It was huge,” said Kelly Anderson, executive director for the symphony.

The symphony was able to get Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, but before those funds came in, the foundation’s donation kept symphony’s payroll going, he said.

While Charles Latshaw, the Grand Junction symphony’s musical director, was furloughed from his position with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra in Arizona, he was able to continue to work here.

“And that is what the foundation is all about,” Suydam said.


Thirty years ago, when the foundation had just begun and it was harder to ask for donations, Kampf remembers saying something along the lines of, “You know, if you don’t ask for money, you’re not going to get it.”

Send out newsletters, tell people what you’re doing, have some events, he said then.

“I see this challenge grant as more of that,” Kampf said, referring to the $30,000 Challenge Grant the foundation recently announced.

Earlier this year, three donors — the Dave and Mary Wood Foundation, Jim and Carol Cadez and Sherry and Dave Farny — each put $10,000 toward the challenge grant.

The symphony foundation is seeking to raise the other $30,000 by the end of March.

It would be a great way to mark the foundation’s 30th anniversary and to get the endowment above $2 million, Putnam said.

So Putnam continues her search for supporters to keep the symphony’s music going for future generations as well as for herself.

In fact, at the last symphony concert she attended there were two pieces with which even she wasn’t acquainted.

Latshaw “is an innovative programmer. He has shown us music that we’ve never heard before … and liked!” Putnam said.

“It’s important to celebrate 30 years. To me, that’s really a big deal,” Putnam said.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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