Gretchen Miller Basso
Public Relations Director
The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra
Phone: 407/896-6700 x 223
(Orlando, FL – July 14, 2011) – The Board of Directors of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to announce the creation of the John O. Blackburn Distinguished Service Award, which will be awarded to Carol Stanley Fenner, long-time Board member and supporter of the Orlando Philharmonic. The award will be presented to Fenner at the Philharmonic’s Opening Night Concert, Puccini e Verdi, on Saturday, September 24, 2011, at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre.
The award has been created in commemoration of John O. Blackburn, who passed away in March, 2011. Blackburn served as volunteer finance director and treasurer of the Philharmonic from 1993 until 2006. Blackburn, a PhD in Economics who spent the majority of his career as Professor of Economics at Duke University, later serving as Provost and then as Chancellor, brought his financial principles to the Philharmonic. Using the solid foundation of fiscal prudence established by Blackburn, the orchestra has remained in the black every year for its 18-year existence. The award is not to be presented annually; rather to be presented on the occasion that the Board deems that someone is deserving of this great honor.
Mark Fischer, a Founder of the Orlando Philharmonic in addition to serving as Principal Horn, reflects on his time with Blackburn, “John walked in the door unassumingly, and asked if we needed any help. Little did we know that he was the former Provost, Dean and Chancellor at Duke University.
“John shared his vast knowledge of financial principles through his actions and taught us how to run the business side of the orchestra. He was a statesman….the first person I ever met who could assimilate several contradictory perspectives and suggest a series of actions on which all parties could agree. This seemed to occur on a daily basis!
“John’s generosity of spirit and commitment to Orlando Philharmonic’s mission is beyond measure. We never imagined when he walked into our lives that this brilliant man would transform us. He gave us so much of his time and energy that he defined us and his presence allowed us much needed credibility. We can never truly thank Mrs. Blackburn appropriately for sharing John with us, other than to say that we couldn’t have done it without him.”
The recipient of the John O. Blackburn Distinguished Service Award must exemplify the following criteria, all of which Blackburn demonstrated:
- a passion for orchestral music
- longevity of service
- commitment to financial stewardship
- a legacy of endowment building
“I am so very honored to be chosen as the first recipient of this award,” says Fenner. “It is a humbling experience because John Blackburn was such a special man; a man with whom I worked closely in the early years of the Orlando Philharmonic.”
Fenner has been a part of the Orlando Philharmonic since its inception, and was also involved with Orlando Opera for 40 years. In 2010, the Orlando Philharmonic honored her with the title of “Lifetime Board member,” a title that she also held at Orlando Opera until its demise. When
Fenner began her work with the Philharmonic, Andrew Lane was at the helm. At that time, she helped Lane with planning and additional tasks. To help save money for the orchestra, Fenner would house then-conductor Alfred Savia at her home on the occasions that he was in town to conduct. “That went on for several years,” Fenner recalls. “Then John Blackburn appeared on the scene, doing the finances and got us on a real path, where we could see where we were going.” Fenner and her husband established The Fenner Trust on Feb. 3, 1984, to benefit the Florida Symphony. The amount at the time was $200,000. Following the demise of the Florida Symphony, and in keeping with its contractual language, Fenner spearheaded the transfer of the funds to the established successor organization, the Orlando Philharmonic in early 1994. Thanks to wise and conservative investments, the fund now stands in excess of $550,000, to benefit the Orlando Philharmonic in perpetuity.
“Carol Fenner is a legend in the Central Florida cultural community,” says David Schillhammer, Orlando Philharmonic Executive Director. “For almost half a century, she has passionately and generously supported the organizations she has loved most, specifically the Orlando Philharmonic. Carol’s knowledge of symphonic music and opera is unparalleled, as is her exuberant enjoyment of high-quality performances. She has served on the Philharmonic’s finance committee since its inception, doggedly reviewing extensive financial information ensuring her beloved orchestra never wavered or abandoned our guiding financial principles, as established by the great John Blackburn. Her vision and generosity in establishing the Fenner Trust, and aggressive work to ensure its transfer to the Orlando Philharmonic demonstrates her keen understanding that a large and healthy endowment is vital and critical to an artistically successful cultural organization. It is a rare occasion to meet such genuine and selfless people as John Blackburn and Carol Fenner. I am proud their names will be etched in stone, indelibly linked in perpetuity.”
About John O. Blackburn:
John O. Blackburn was born in Miami in 1929. He graduated from Miami High School in 1947 and from Duke University in 1951. He served in the US Navy as an auditor in Hartford, CN, later earning his PhD from the University of Florida. In 1959, he returned to Duke University as Assistant Professor of Economics, and then as Provost from 1970 to 1971, then as Chancellor with Terry Sanford from 1971 to 1976. He and his wife Jeanne retired to Maitland, FL in 1980, where he pursued research interests in energy economics. While there, he published two books: The Renewable Energy Alternative and South Florida: A Sustainable Energy Future, in addition to serving as volunteer treasurer of the Orlando Philharmonic, his church, and served on the Board of the Valley of Guatemala. They returned to Durham NC in 2008, where he completed studies that demonstrated the practicality and desirability of alternative energy for NC and worked with NC WARN, where he testified against unnecessary additional coal or nuclear plants. At the time of his death, he was working on a sustainability study for the entire United States.
About Carol Stanley Fenner:
Fenner grew up in New Orleans, LA, and completed her education there, although she spent her junior year of college in Paris at the Sorbonne. She earned her have a Bachelor of Arts in French, with a Music minor from Tulane University. Fenner’s love of classical music and opera began at age 12. She sang in church choirs and college choruses throughout her life, and only a few years ago, retired from the All Saints Episcopal Church choir in Winter Park, where she sang for 34 years. Now, she enjoys being in the congregation. She also served as the Director of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions for the State of Florida for 20 years. Since college, she has lived in New York, Houston, Montgomery, and Central Florida for 40 years. Fenner has three adult children and ten grandchildren. Still today, Fenner says that her passion is classical music and my love of the Orlando Philharmonic and its musicians.