Winnipeg's best-known rock shop wants to support its softer side.
Long & McQuade Musical Instruments, where countless aspiring lead guitarists bought their first axe, is one of hundreds of sponsors of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's Adopt-a-Musician program.
The just-completed fundraiser has taken in $280,000 to send nearly 80 WSO musicians to New York City next month, where they'll perform at a little place called Carnegie Hall.
Jason Charney, assistant manager at Long & McQuade, said it has been a longtime supporter of the WSO. In fact, several members of its staff have performed onstage with the orchestra and others have spouses in the WSO.
"It's a pretty incredible opportunity for them to be able to play at Carnegie Hall. It's a big deal, and we're happy to be a part of it," he said.
Long & McQuade regularly presents a "petting zoo" for the WSO Sunday series of concerts, which provides instruments for kids to try out. Even though guitars are the retailer's bread and butter, it also sells many different types of stringed instruments, woodwinds, brass instruments and percussion instruments.
"People think of us as a rock shop, but we have a very strong band department," Charney said.
The WSO was invited to play the iconic New York concert hall last year as part of the fourth annual Spring For Music festival. Five other orchestras -- from New York, Seattle, Rochester, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh -- will perform from May 4 to 10. When the WSO takes the stage on May 8, more than 600 Winnipeggers -- many of whom have adopted one of the musicians on stage -- will be in the audience.
Trudy Schroeder, executive director of the WSO, said symphonies in larger cities have been able to participate in once-in-a-lifetime opportunities through the generosity of a large sponsor or two. In Winnipeg, however, it takes a village to get the job done.
"It's a little more grassroots here. We get involved as individuals in Winnipeg, and as smaller companies, to make what seems impossible possible. We all have pride in the community," she said.
For example, one donor wanted to sponsor somebody involved with the WSO's Sistema Winnipeg program, which teaches stringed instruments to inner-city kids. Another wanted to support a younger member because their grandchildren could relate to them. And Jets co-owner Mark Chipman, who still plays the drums, sponsored a percussionist.
Tim Burt, president and CEO of Cardinal Capital Management and chairman of the WSO, said when the fundraiser was launched it was hoped sponsors could be found for 75 per cent of the musicians.
Burt is also a donor, sponsoring Richard Turner, the harpist, who happens to be vice-president of the WSO board.
"I know him the best," he said, noting he and his wife are flying down for the performance.
"It should be a great experience to be in New York and see the WSO perform at Carnegie Hall. How often does that happen?" he said.