Harold Matzner Raises A Paddle For Seattle Symphony

Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s (SSO) opening night and gala on Sept. 19 broke all previous records, raising $785,000 for the symphony’s education programs and more, and kicking off the season in grand style.

The amount raised was almost 30 percent more than the previous year, with increased giving both on the corporate and individual sides.

The evening began with a pre-concert reception at Benaroya Hall followed by a concert which delighted the opening night attendees.

Canadian-born pianist and Julliard student Kevin Ahfat was introduced by SSO Board Chair Leslie Chihuly, who spoke about the importance of inspiring youth and mentoring new artists.

Ahfat, 20, had just won first place in Seattle Symphony’s first international piano competition, which took place over the course of three intensive days last week. His prize after defeating the other six entrants — $10,000 and an invitation to perform on opening night.

Ahfat, recipient of numerous other prestigious awards, also will get to perform with the symphony in the following season. He played the final movement of Barber Piano Concerto, to rave reviews.

Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Seattle Symphony’s first Artist-in-Residence this season, and chair of the jury for the competition, performed Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5, and both pianists performed a humorous piece together at concert’s end, bringing the appreciative crowd to laughter in parts.

After the concert, hundreds of guests made their way to Seattle’s Fairmont Olympic Hotel for a black and white-themed gala, an event which sold out in July.

Among the guests at the formal event were Dan and Nancy Evans, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Nader and Oraib Kabbani, Howard Wright, Chuck and Susan Armstrong, Seattle Symphony Lifetime Director Dan Baty and Pam Baty, Becky Benaroya, Larry and Sherry Benaroya, Dr. Jim Bianco, Rosanna Bowles, and Ann Wyckoff, philanthropist and gala honoree who got a standing ovation for all her contributions.

Seattle Symphony Trustee Jeff Lehman and his wife Katrina Russell offered a $50,000 match for people raising their paddles at $1,000. Some 67 people raised their paddles at that level.

Two people raised the paddle at $25,000 level: Dan Baty; and Harold Matzner,board chair of McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, where the Seattle Symphony has performed in the past.

As posted in the BizJournals, September 21, 2015