Senator Browne Announces Grant of $500,000 to the Allentown Symphony

Date: Nov 30, 2022

Allentown Symphony Association receives grant from Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Sen. Pat Browne announces award at Miller Symphony Hall.

Allentown, PA – Senator Pat Browne today announced that he has secured a $500,000 grant for the Allentown Symphony Association from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The news was delivered to board members and staff assembled in the outer lobby of Miller Symphony Hall, the long-time home of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra (ASO), and one of only two historic theaters that survive today in Allentown. Funding will support programming of the Allentown Symphony.

Sen. Browne has secured multiple grants for the Symphony Association during his many years of service in the PA General Assembly, both in recent years as Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, but also going back decades.

“We are grateful to Senator Browne and the Commonwealth for their major support of our work and beautiful theater,” says Al Jacobsen, Allentown Symphony Association Executive Director. “The Symphony has benefited from capital grants for renovations to Miller Symphony Hall and funding like this grant to support our mission-based programming here and in the community. This support has been a difference maker for the organization and, by extension, the cultural community of Allentown.”

“These funds are part of a recurring public commitment of state operational resources amounting to over $2.5 million which have played an integral role in the sustainability of this extraordinary assets for the future benefit of our region,” Senator Browne said. “For like the urban community around it, which had experienced a sustained period of fiscal challenge, it was less than a decade ago where considerations were being discussed as to alternatives in the ownership and operations of this special facility in order to secure its future. Now, with the significant support of public finance ensuring the continued rebirth and renewal of Allentown’s commercial corridor, we must also continue to invest in this foundational cultural asset that has, since its christening as the Lyric theater generations ago, made our city a tremendous place to live, work and play.”

The Allentown Symphony Orchestra has been performing at Miller Symphony Hall (originally known as the Lyric Theater) since its founding in 1951. Led since 1995 by Music Director Diane Wittry, the ASO currently presents a 10-program series of performances each year featuring a variety of music including classical, Broadway, film scores, rock ‘n roll, and jazz. Additionally, the organization hosts a number of education programs, including the Orchestra’s annual youth and family concerts for elementary aged children, and El Sistema Lehigh Valley in partnership with the Allentown School District.

Jacobsen added that, “As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, the Allentown Symphony is a stronger organization thanks to Senator Browne’s support and advocacy. His belief in the arts, however, goes well beyond the Symphony. Pat is a co-founder of the PA Legislative Arts & Culture Caucus, which has galvanized support and interest for the arts across the general assembly. He was instrumental in steering CARES Act stimulus funds to the arts through the Commonwealth’s Cultural and Museum Preservation Grant Program. There are countless people and organizations that are stronger thanks to Senator Browne.”

For more information about the Allentown Symphony and Miller Symphony Hall, please visit MillerSymphonyHall.org.

###

About the Allentown Symphony Association (ASA)/Miller Symphony Hall

Operating the Allentown Symphony Orchestra (ASO), El Sistema Lehigh Valley (ESLV) and owner/operator of Miller Symphony Hall, the ASA is one of the region’s premier arts organizations. Its programming is rooted in both concert presentations and music education/community engagement programs that benefit thousands in the Lehigh Valley.

Each year, the ASO performs more than 20 classical, pops, educational, and family concerts. In 2014 and again in 2017, the orchestra received the national American Prize for “orchestral excellence.”  With passion and finesse, the ASO, led by Music Director & Conductor Diane Wittry, plays time-honored masterworks, newly commissioned world premieres, and intriguing repertoire, including works by prominent new composers.

Serving as a cultural destination for the Lehigh Valley and beyond, Miller Symphony Hall is one of Pennsylvania’s most historic performing arts venues. It serves as home to the ASO and as a performance space for a range of diverse artistic offerings, creating a vibrant cultural community for the entire region. The Hall began its life in the 1890’s as a large, three-story central marketplace. The building was converted to a theatre in 1899 by renowned architect J.B. McElfatrick and renamed the Lyric Theatre. Today it is one of only a dozen of McElfatrick’s prized ‘Beaux-Arts’ theatres that has survived.

In 1959, with the help of Call-Chronicle newspaper owners Sam and Donald Miller, the Lyric was purchased by the ASA (established in 1951) as a permanent home for its symphony orchestra and re-christened Allentown Symphony Hall. Re-named Miller Symphony Hall in 2012 in honor of the family who saved it and who continue to support it today, the Hall has helped catalyze the redevelopment of Allentown’s urban core.