Skip to content


brbrSchumers Request Comes After the Musicians of Former Syracuse Symphony Orchestra Requested Tax-Exempt Status in Order to Continue Tradition of Excellent Classical Music in CNY Move Would Help Get 50 Musicians Back on JobbrbrWith New Shows Scheduled, Reinvented Symphony Will Rely on Donations to Survive Long Term -- After Orchestra Filed for Bankruptcy in 2011, Schumer Pledged to Help With Any Sensible Initiative to Keep Musicians in SyracusebrbrSchumer: Swift IRS Action Would Allow Syracuse


Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to swiftly review a request by Symphoria - comprised of musicians from the nowdefunct Syracuse Symphony Orchestra - to receive notforprofit status so the group of professional musicians could perform again, and continue to attract scores of classical music enthusiasts to Central New York. Shortly after the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra filed for bankruptcy in 2011, Schumer traveled to Syracuse and publically pledged to support any initiative that would keep the musicians playing in the region. Schumer noted that Symphoria recently submitted an Application for Tax Exemption at the end of January, and he emphasized that the IRS should waste no time in their issuance of a determination letter for the orchestra's notforprofit status. With performances scheduled, Schumer noted that revenue alone cannot keep the reinvented symphony vital on the long term, and donations, trusts and other sources of funding from local supporters will allow the performers to remain in Syracuse.


"The IRS must not skip a beat in their determination for Symphoria's notforprofit status so that Syracuse's classical musicians can reunite on a positive note," said Schumer. "The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra had many committed fans and this designation would help these talented musicians to draw financial support that is critical for their longterm vitality. Symphoria is much more than a professional orchestra, it is a staple of Central New York's culture and we must do all we can to see that their instruments are not stored away in a closet. I am urging the IRS to get behind this critical plan for entertainment and culture in Central New York, and to swiftly approve taxexempt status."


Schumer also noted in the letter that Symphoria has sought creative solutions to keep the Syracuse Symphony's musicians playing in Central New York during these tough economic times. Currently, Symphoria is modeling itself after the Louisiana Philharmonic which is a cooperative orchestra owned and operated by the musicians. Schumer feels this model should strengthen Symporia's case that they recently submitted to the IRS through a Form 1023 application for taxexempt status. Schumer noted that the status would allow Symphoria to collect donations that help with the purchase and maintenance of musical equipment, advertising, travel and more.  


"Senator Schumer's efforts to expedite our request to the IRS is both appreciated and important. This status will allow us to both collect and cashin donations-a crucial ability of any successful orchestra. We've been working hard to bring back the music and Senator's Schumer's quick tempo is just what we need to keep our plan on track," said Jon Garland, a Director on the board of the newly formed symphony corporation.


The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra (SSO) was formed in 1961 with aid from a Gifford Foundation grant. Then known as the Onondaga Symphony, this funding allowed the organization's transformation from a semiprofessional body with approximately 60 members to a dedicated professional orchestra with worldclass artists. The SSO's first conductor, Karl Kritz, declined a position with the Munich State Opera in order to come to Central New York and build the young orchestra. During his eightyear tenure, Kritz firmly established the SSO as one of the premier regional symphonies in the country: in 1962, Governor Nelson Rockefeller declared the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra critical to the cultural upsurge occurring in Upstate New York and his New York State Council on the Arts began its sponsorship of the SSO.


For the next fifty years, the SSO provided Central New York audiences with the highestquality classical performances, while encouraging the next generation of artists. The SSO organized several youth programs that gave young musicians the spotlight and training necessary to become professionals. Yet like many bodies in the classical musicworld, the SSO's financial worries became increasingly strained during the 2000s as audiences decreased in size and donor funding became increasingly scarce. In 2011, the SSO shocked many in the community when it was revealed it did not even have the funding to perform the remainder of the season, and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy with some $5 million in debt and an unfunded pension system. Schumer noted that another orchestra known as the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra folded during the Great Depression of the 1930s when donorsupport dried up, and Schumer says that tax exempt status could help prevent a similar fate for Symphoria.


A copy of Sen. Schumer's letter to Acting IRS Commissioner, Douglas Shulman, appears below:


Dear Commissioner Shulman:

I write today concerning an expedition request for the approval of the notforprofit status of the newly formed Symphony Syracuse, "Symphoria." 

In 2011, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra was forced to declare bankruptcy. Central New York orchestra patrons were stunned as the doors of the orchestra closed, but hopes were high that the symphony might make a comeback.

Now, the Syracuse Symphony is working hard to reinvent itself as "Symphoria." The organization is made up of 50 members of the former Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, all whom live and work in Syracuse and Central New York.  Symphoria has sought creative solutions to keep the Syracuse Symphony's musicians playing in Central New York, including modeling their organization after the Louisiana Philharmonic, which is a cooperative run and owned by the musicians.

At one time, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra was considered one of America's top 50 orchestras, and now "Symphoria" looks to continue this impressive achievement. Already, "Symphoria" has lined up an exciting 2013 winter and spring concert season, performing in locations throughout Syracuse. With their nonforprofit status inhand, "Symphoria" will be able to collect donations that help fund their organization and enrich the quality of life in Central New York. Moreover, the newly formed orchestra will keep local businesses bustling with orchestragoers, and provide musical education opportunities for our youth. Their notforprofit status is the key to keeping this important cultural resource safe and protected and I support the organization's request for expedition wholeheartedly.    

Again, I ask that your agency consider expediting the application of "Symphoria's" notforprofit status and allow them to continue their great tradition of  musical talents enriching Central New York. We should do everything we can to support their effort and keep the music playing. Please feel free to contact my office should you require any additional information related to this request.