By Judith Phaneuf, community volunteer and Abilene Philharmonic Guild member
Established in 1953, the Abilene Philharmonic Guild has a rich legacy of innovative and successful fundraising efforts that financially support the Abilene Philharmonic. This enthusiastic group also provides nearly 200 volunteers to support the Philharmonic’s concerts and educational activities.
In addition to orchestrating a variety of events every year, the guild is the largest single contributor of volunteers to the Abilene Philharmonic Association. Fundraising events include the annual Christmas poinsettia sale and, most notably, the annual Gold Medallion Brunch and Ball, which raises more than $100,000 annually for the orchestra. This year’s Gold Medallion Ball, with an “All That Jazz” theme, honored Billye Proctor Shaw, a true champion of the arts in Abilene, and her husband, Glynn Ray.
The guild organizes and staffs student concerts (6,000 students each year learn about symphonic music) and helps staff the Abilene Philharmonic Association annual Christmas Home Tour.
Another integral part of the guild is the Belles and Beaus program. This long-standing program involves young people who love the music of the Philharmonic and are willing to give their time and talent to the orchestra. The Belles and Beaus program is a service group for students from the seventh grade through high school. The program requires a five-year commitment to the guild and the orchestra. Each young person learns leadership skills and etiquette and earns community service hours. The senior Belles and Beaus are presented at the Gold Medallion Ball and scholarship awards are given to outstanding seniors.
The guild meets September through May in various locations. Members come from a variety of backgrounds, and all ages are welcome.
“My membership in the Philharmonic Guild has given me the opportunity to meet and work with incredible women and men,” Mary Cooksey said. “The friendships forged through committee work are dearly treasured. No other volunteer involvement has provided me such a wide variety of experiences. I love being part of the rich history of the guild.”
At any guild event, one can find a member whose background and interests mesh with their own. Visit www.abilenephiharmonic.org to join or to learn more.