Donate back my paycheck?! Well, when you put it that way…

Last week, the musicians of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra organized a salary give-back to the organization. On January 24, six members of the orchestra sent a letter to their colleagues explaining the initiative and why it was being done. “We are asking those musicians who are inclined and able to make a donation in the amount of their service pay for the February 1 concert (1 service),” they wrote. “We [believe] this one-time donation will show our support for the DSSO, our confidence in the organization, and our commitment to helping create a sustainable DSSO.”

I’ll be honest: my initial reaction to this letter wasn’t to happily whip out my checkbook. In the past year I have been involved in starting two businesses, and my DSSO salary, though modest, has been my most reliable source of income. Like my fellow musicians, I work really hard for it, both in rehearsals and concerts and when I practice at home. So in spite of the thoughtful arguments of the letter, I resisted.

But only for about a day. I love this symphony. Since 2007, it has given me some of my most thrilling musical experiences. I don’t know how long I will be able to continue playing in the group, because I now live 250 miles away in Moorhead, but I want to do what I can to ensure its long, healthy life. My motivation is partly selfish, partly selfless—as it often is for us humans.  

When I was deliberating whether to give or not, I told myself it might be enough that I consistently promote the DSSO to my former UMD colleagues and other friends in Duluth, and write articles about the orchestra from time to time. “Plus, can you imagine employees at a bank, for example, asking their co-workers to give back part of their salary as a gesture of support to their employer?” I told my husband.

Few people, if anyone, in the orchestra would have faulted me for deciding I could continue to give only non-financial support. In fact, the organizers of this initiative explicitly stated that no one should feel any pressure to participate in the salary donation. While it may not be possible to feel entirely un-pressured in such a situation, despite statements and intentions, I appreciated that.
I wrote the check. Maybe reading this has inspired you to make a DSSO donation yourself. But it would be even better, truly, to support the orchestra by coming to a concert. We have four left this season. That way, you would not only be supporting the orchestra, but also enjoying the orchestra. That’s what it’s all about, after all.

For those who would like to donate to the DSSO, here is the link: