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Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Sid Special Endowment

From the Vault Dept.: Back in 1990, when I was freelancing regularly for the paper, I proposed writing a column for the Schenectady Daily Gazette and submitted some samples. The editors proved resistant to the whimsy of my pen. Here's one of the samples.


Constantin Guys (1802-1892): Box Seats
WHY NOT FUND a kid at your next concert? I got this idea a couple of seasons ago when I was browsing for a comfortable seat at the Troy Music Hall and discovered a vacant box.

“You can't sit there,” the usher said. “That's reserved for Sidney Special.”

Sidney Special is someone known to us all in the area. He has lots of money and likes to be regarded as a grand benefactor of the arts. He also doesn't much go to concerts.

I asked if I could sit there until Mr. Special arrived, but was told that he'd get upset if he found me there. He never did arrive. I kept my eye on that box from my eventually-chosen gallery seat, and it struck me as a significant waste of space.

We need to encourage the Sid Specials of the world to continue to stay home from concerts. With an added incentive to feel good about it. For many people, there's no thrill as keen as seeing their names in small print in the back of a concert program, among the Donors and Angels and Century Club Members and whatever tricky names the promoters use.

I'd like to propose a new category of membership, however, that easily could prove to be to most desirable of all. To join, Sid would give his usual amount of money (maybe even a little more), but he'd also give his tickets to a worthy, but broke, potential patron.

He gets the satisfaction of the program listing and a tax write-off; the potential patron gets a free seat.

We'd have to screen the patrons, of course, which is why I think it should begin in the schools, where interested students always can be found. Local arts organizations could coordinate a search for professionals (or would-be professionals) who would benefit from the experience but can't cough up the price.

Most important is to signify this as an honor all around. Sid would be happy. The person getting the seat would be encouraged to resist embarrassment, because the arts have long thrived on patron generosity.

And those who paid regular prices would understand that it's important to share the hall with enthusiasts who otherwise wouldn't be there. Maybe they’d probably be encouraged to endow a seat or two themselves.

I'm not well-heeled enough to make such an endowment myself – I write for a living, after all – so I offer this idea to the public domain, free of charge. Not that I, myself, would turn down a couple of seats here and there . . .

– June 27, 1990

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