The Buffalo Philharmonic is thriving today. You can go to their website here and find out. But there was a time when it wasn’t. And to the rescue rode—Buck Benny!
Jack Benny was rightfully proud of the benefit concerts he gave over the years to help orchestras/symphonies and save old theatres. One was in Buffalo. Jack was pretty generous with his time, not only on stage, but in giving media interviews promoting his appearances. The Towanda News wrote on August 13, 1969 about a concert in Buffalo. Evidently, it accomplished its goal as the Buffalo Philharmonic is still with us.
Can Jack Benny Save Philharmonic?
By JIM FLATEAU
NEWS Staff Writer
Is Jack Benny willing to help save the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra? The answer appears to be a definite "yes," providing both parties can get together and guarantee "a fairly large turnout."
The fiddle-playing comedian said in an exclusive interview with the Tonawanda NEWS yesterday afternoon that he would like nothing better than to give a fund-raising concert with the financially troubled Buffalo Philharmonic.
Mr. Benny, who is appearing this week at Melody Fair, made known his feelings — as did his business manager — during a press conference at the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ont. The 39-year-old comedian (or is it 75?) said, "If I honestly thought my coming here would raise a substantial sum for the orchestra and our schedules could be brought together, I would definitely want to come."
His business manager, Irving Fein, added "We have tried to come to Buffalo, but haven't been able to work it out. We are waiting for the Buffalo people to ask us and offer a workable plan that fits into our schedule. And, if it can be shown our appearance would be beneficial, we would come."
Arlington Zetty, Buffalo Philharmonic manager, is all for it.
"We absolutely do want Mr. Benny to come to Buffalo," he said. "We cannot think of anything that would draw a bigger crowd or do so much to help our financial situation."
"I think there is a good chance that we'll come to Buffalo, maybe now that things have changed. It would be good to come here — if we could take in money.
"And I think it could be done. If I were in any way assured that we would raise money, we would definitely be interested.
"The dollars are needed, but it takes an orchestra that knows how to bring those dollars in!
"In the past, we have rarely played to less than a full house in this type of concert. In Oakland, whose concert hall has 2,100 seats, we raised $200,000 in one night. This was not only through ticket sales, but donations, gifts and all the rest.
"A sum of $35,000 and up sounds good. Can Buffalo raise that much? I really couldn't say, as I am not familiar with the situation.
"Yet if they want us to come, we are interested. But is it worth our time to come here and put on a performance raising $20,000 when we can be in, say Cleveland, and raise $100,000 for their orchestra?
"You have to have priorities, you must decide that in doing these concerts, those with the greatest potential should be handled first. "Then, the ones with lower potential. I don't know. Where, you tell me, does Buffalo rate itself?"
Jack Benny has played with many symphony and philharmonic orchestras throughout the nation, charging for his own personal expenses only. He simply requests that the money raised be used to help build the sponsoring orchestra.
Mr. Fein said:
"We once had a date to appear in Buffalo, but working with the people there, we just couldn't get down to details and arrive at specifics.
"After all, why do you ask me if Jack will appear? Mr. Zetty has my phone number. He could call me. He should be showing some initiative, he should be getting hold of me! Buffalo should be doing the asking.
"Also, the city does not support the orchestra. In order for us to come here, we must feel the city is interested.
Otherwise, will any money be raised for the orchestra? Will there have been a reason for Jack to come?
"If we came to Buffalo, we might get $30,000 - if we are lucky, real lucky. But if we come, we want to know that Jack's being here helps make money that will be returned to the music industry.
"If we play with Buffalo's orchestra, we must be able to fit it in our schedule and know we will do some good."
Mr. Zetty said:
"We would love to have Mr. Benny here — we need him as much as we want him. The orchestra, at present has a deficit of $550,000 — the largest of any orchestra in the country. If Mr. Benny is willing to come, we will re-arrange our own schedule to coincide with his."
On April 21, the boards of directors of the Buffalo and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestras agreed to study the possibility of a merger to combat the "staggering financial problems" each organization now faces.
With a $1.25-million budget for this year, the Buffalo orchestra's musicians, area businessmen and music-loving citizens organized a "Save the Philharmonic" drive earlier this year. The goal: To keep the Buffalo Philharmonic in Buffalo.