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April 27, 2018

‘Pops, Patriots and Fireworks’

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Jump to: THE SCARSDALE INQUIRER or THE RIVERTOWNS ENTERPRISE

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Curtain rises on final phase of Caramoor’s capital campaign

By EDWARD BAUM
GABE PALACIO PHOTOS

Caramoor CEO Jeffrey P. Haydon and Board Chairman James A. Attwood Jr. in the Music Room in the Rosen House.

 

A new act is beginning next week for Caramoor, the world-class performing arts center located on a stunning 90-acre estate in Katonah.

After four and a half years of fundraising internally from board members and other lead donors, the nonprofit institution is embarking on the final phase of an ambitious, multi-year capital campaign. The goal: to raise $8 million from members of the public over the next two years to finance a series of projects aimed at improving Caramoor’s outdoor visitor experience.

The “Inspire” campaign, as Caramoor is calling it, aims to bring the complex’s grounds and gardens to the same high level as its acclaimed musical
GABE PALACIO PHOTOS

The Piano House is one of Caramoor’s sound art installations on its 90-acre grounds.

 
programming. If all goes as planned, the anticipated work will be completed in time for Caramoor’s 75th anniversary in 2020.

Caramoor CEO Jeffrey P. Haydon and Board Chairman James A. Attwood Jr. sat down in an exclusive interview with The Record-Review last week to discuss the campaign.

Mr. Haydon, who was recruited by the board of trustees in 2012, recalled that talk of making these improvements began almost as soon as he arrived in his new position.

“One of the early things that we talked about was transforming our physical space, consistent with upgrading the audience experience. We knew we had an incredibly devoted group of patrons, but we knew we had to fix a few things up,” he said.

Since the launch of its “quiet phase” in October 2013, the capital campaign surpassed the $20 million mark a year ago and has recently topped $32 million. A major focus of those efforts has been replenishing Caramoor’s endowment, according to Mr. Attwood, a Bedford resident who has led the board since 2011 and served as a trustee since 2007.

“One of my objectives is to create financial sustainability for Caramoor into the foreseeable future,” he said. “And we made it through the recession, but just barely. We were undercapitalized at the endowment level and needed to do better on our annual giving, as well,” he noted.

Now, all of Caramoor’s financial indicators are looking up, the leaders confirmed. Since the campaign began, the endowment, which dwindled to roughly $300,000 in the early 1970s, has quadrupled to $28 million, Mr. Attwood said. At that level, it is generating nearly enough cash to help balance Caramoor’s shortfall of fundraising and ticket sales, he explained.

“We really worked hard with our most generous donors to work on the endowment first, knowing that we would move into a public phase that would have more of a focus on capital projects,” he added.

“Any good, vibrant arts organization needs to have a strong endowment because ticket sales cover only 20 percent of the cost of covering an organization like Caramoor,” said Mr. Haydon. A healthy endowment “allows us to bring the bigger names, to explore new ideas in programming, to experiment a little bit and also to offer programs to the community for free, and a lot of education programs,” he said.

Individual donations to support Caramoor’s annual giving campaigns total roughly $4 million a year, Mr. Attwood said. Caramoor’s annual operating budget is approximately $7 million.

On an easel in Mr. Haydon’s office, located on the second floor of the stucco and ceramic tile-roofed administrative building, is a rendering of Caramoor’s extensive outdoors space. It hints at the dramatic transformation of the grounds that the senior staff expects to be realized over the next two years, thanks to the Inspire campaign. Among the projects planned are a re-imagined Friends Field dedicated to programming and audiences; a campus-wide nighttime lighting plan; a redesigned Woodland Garden featuring native plants to attract songbirds and wildlife; reconfigured parking and traffic circulation; a permanent box office near the outdoor venues, and additional seating and dining amenities.

Caramoor also plans to use funds from the capital campaign to innovate in the area of sound art. Building on several initial installations already in place, Caramoor will work with curator Stephen Moore to create Sound Park, which it says will be the world’s first permanent sound art collection. It has commissioned sound artist Trimpin, whose piece, “Piano House,” was included in the 2014 exhibition, to create a permanent work on the grounds to anchor the new collection.

Mr. Haydon said the plans focus on “very exciting, forward looking, tangible projects,” which he believes will foster strong community engagement and support.

For Caramoor’s CEO, the focus on enhancing the complex’s physical surroundings speaks to a broader sense of what defines the Caramoor “experience.”

“It’s the totality of not just the music,” he said, “but the setting and the people involved.”

“What infuses all of it is the legacy of the vision,” he continued. “The Rosens, who founded Caramoor, had an incredible vision. They created a place where they could invite friends to come and just leave the rest of the world behind, and experience something deeper and much more inspiring through art and conversation.”

Walter Rosen, a lawyer and banker, and his wife, Lucie, purchased the Katonah property from a woman named Carolyn Moore — hence the name “Caramoor.” The well-traveled Rosens decided to keep the name because they loved all aspects of Italian culture and “Cara Amore” means “dear love” in Italian.

In the 1930s, Mr. Rosen converted a part of a farm complex on the estate to a house for their use. In 1939, construction was completed on the home’s Music Room.

Caramoor has invested $3 million in Rosen House over the past three years to renovate the structure. Improvements have included a new roof, new bathrooms and the installation of a freight elevator. The Music Room, a 150-seat venue in Rosen House that now offers year-round programming, also has been polished and upgraded. One of the changes entailed removing risers to create a single level for the audience.

Caramoor’s diverse programs appeal to “musical omnivores,” to use a phrase of Mr. Attwood’s. They attract audiences from throughout the region. A particular strength has been the growth in attendance from local residents, Mr. Haydon pointed out. “In the last five years, in the towns of Lewisboro, Bedford and Pound Ridge, ticket sales have gone up by more than 50 percent,” he said. Collaborations with programming partners such as “Jazz at Lincoln Center” also have pulled in more New York City-based ticket buyers.

“We want to be able to provide music to whoever wants to be able to explore new music experiences, whether they’re from New York City, really local or northern Westchester or Fairfield County,” said Tahra Millan, vice president and chief marketing officer, who also joined the meeting.

Another point of pride is the large representation of local residents among Caramoor’s trustees, who make up nearly half of its 30-member board, and on its board of advisors, according to Mr. Haydon, who lives in Katonah with his wife, Kathryn, and their son.

When the board set out to establish the capital campaign, Mr. Attwood said, “several of us got together with lead gifts and said this will be the nucleus for inspiring our fellow board members first and then ultimately for inspiring the community.”

Beyond the board’s shared vision for the future of Caramoor and the generosity of its members in supporting fundraising, Mr. Attwood highlighted the range of subject matter expertise trustees bring to the management team. For example, William Cordiano of Pound Ridge, who is chair of the buildings and grounds committee, will play a key role in helping guide the many projects about to get underway. Caramoor also has retained architectural and planning firms such as Beyer Blinder Belle on the project.

“Caramoor is a gem, we are not trying to change it,” said Mr. Attwood. “But we want to make the experience a little more comfortable for people.” Ultimately, he added, “we want to preserve what Caramoor is — an incredibly intimate place to experience music and interact with artists.”

A launch event for the public phase of the Inspire campaign is planned on Thursday, June 7. It will include cocktails and tours of the gardens and grounds.

For more information, visit caramoor.org/support/ways-to-give.


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