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ASO Welcomes Friends at Belle Haven

Guests gain sneak peak at new season and new club.

It came down to the wire, but with permits in hand as of Friday, Stan Krejci and other members of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) were able to hold their fall fund-raiser in the newly renovated Belle Haven Country Club Sunday evening. While not completely open to the public, the club has scheduled a few events, including the one that was held for the symphony. An open house for the club is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 16, and the facilities will open on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

“I hope that having the auspicious opportunity of having our opening event here bodes well for both the symphony and Belle Haven Country Club,” said Kim Allen Kluge, music director, Alexandria Symphony Orchestra. “The fact that Belle Haven is hosting the Alexandria Symphony as an inaugural event bodes well for the future of the arts.”

Kluge was there to greet the hundred or so supporters who came for the symphony’s opening reception. He treated them to a preview of the upcoming season by performing a teaser from the first concert, which will feature selections from “Gone with the Wind,” “Cold Mountain” and “The Last Emperor.” He then played a piece by Chopin on the piano.

“I wanted to demonstrate the co-existence and sharing of pop and classical music,” said Kluge, who attributes ASO's continuing success to its philosophy of diversity, high standards and accessibility.

“What distinguishes us from our friendly competitors is our programming,” Kluge said. “We have pops, film scores and classical pieces — all coexisting. We play music for real people’s lives and play music that people will listen to. It’s our philosophy and programming approach that makes us different.”

Kluge mentioned that he was pleased at the energy exhibited with the opening of the club and was glad to see so many community leaders in attendance.

AS HE ENTERS his 16th season, Kluge said, “For me it just keeps getting more rewarding.”

While other symphonies are failing — the Arlington Symphony recently filed for bankruptcy after 60 years and the Washington Chamber Symphony closed in July, 2002 — Alexandria maintains a solid footing.

Stan Krejci, president of the Alexandria Symphony Board of Trustees, attributes that to sound financial planning, and said, “Some organizations spend more money than they have.”

He said that ASO was able to pay off their fixed debt last year by making an appeal to all members to donate an extra hundred dollars. The symphony continues to use a revolving $100,000 credit line, but they are hoping to eliminate the need for that in the future as well.

Krejci said that this year there are two campaigns underway to raise money. The first is “Giving is Easy,” where subscribers are asked to give above and beyond their normal gifts. The second is the Alexandria Symphony Concerto Foundation. This group has an independent board of directors, which includes Frank and Betty Quirk. This endowment program includes a challenge grant by the Quirks where they will match every dollar up to $100,000. Krejci said that they have already matched $30,000 and have another $20,000 in pledges that will be matched as they are paid into the grant. Donations are made in $5,000 increments.

“This is a wonderful thing,” Krejci said. “Our goal is to have sufficient cash on hand to not have to rely on the credit line at all.”

The ultimate goal is to have $2 million in the foundation’s fund, which will be used to make annual gifts to the symphony to operate.

“I’m extremely proud of the way the community has rallied to reach out to the symphony,” Krejci said. “The community at large has been involved in the symphony.”

Both Krejci and Kluge said that they are reaching out to Arlington Symphony subscribers.

“We welcome all and anybody from Arlington to come to our concerts,” Krejci said, and as a special welcome, they are offering a free concert as part of their subscription.

“We want them to hear music in the home they’re accustomed to [Schlesinger Center],” Krejci said.

“There are many ways we are reaching out to Ruben [Vartanyan] and the Arlington Symphony,” Kluge said.

KREJCI IS NOT ONLY on ASO’s board of directors, but is also a member of Belle Haven Country Club’s House committee and has been working with contractors and decorators on the finishing touches of the club’s interior. “This program started 10 to 12 years ago and the fruition of it is a testimony to the perseverance and good faith of the membership board,” Krejci said. “There were difficulties bringing this to a conclusion. To have a new facility, new clubhouse and new golf course is unbelievable.”

Work on the multi-million dollar renovation began last year. ASO members, many of whom are club members, toured the main floor this past weekend, marveling over its spaciousness and decorating details. Designed by Ferry, Hayes & Allen Design, Inc. in the Federalist style, the new club is elegant, yet maintains a feeling of warmth.

“What you have here is a great piece of property that always needs to be preserved,” said Forrest Williams, club member for 25 years. He remembers the original clubhouse that was replaced in the early 1980s. “We’ve come a long way. I’m shocked that it’s as nice as it is.”

Private lounging and dining areas will be available to the members who want to relax with a cocktail or cup or coffee while visiting with guests or reading the paper. The original bar has been fully renovated as has the original lobby area. There are two separate dining rooms — one for adults only and one for families.

A large ballroom on the main level can accommodate 260 guests for a seated event and several hundred for a reception. Smaller groups can take advantage of the sectional capability (room divides into three) or use the dining area on the third floor which seats 60. Krejci said that it overlooks the Potomac River and is beautiful.

Krejci is sure that the renovated club will have no problem generating additional business. He plans to do more business entertaining at the club, especially now that they are serving breakfast. He has already scheduled several meetings.

“It’s well worth the wait,” Krejci said. “We’ll use it because it’s so beautiful and impressive. They’ve done a great job with the staff and service.”

“We’re very proud of it,” said David R. Tyson, CCM, general manager and COO. “The facilities are beautiful and speak for themselves.”