153 Years of Performing Arts History

. December 4, 2018.
Zak Vassar, President & CEO of the Toledo Symphony, will become CEO of the combined organization.
Zak Vassar, President & CEO of the Toledo Symphony, will become CEO of the combined organization.

Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA)

On January 1, 2019, two of the area’s oldest performing arts organizations will officially merge as the Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts, or T.A.P.A. With a long history of collaboration, the merging of The Toledo Symphony and Toledo Ballet represents 153 years of regional performing arts history.

“This partnership is a natural one,” said Zak Vassar, President & CEO of the Toledo Symphony, who will become CEO of the combined organization. “The Toledo Symphony and Toledo Ballet have worked together for over 70 years, with the Symphony serving as the Ballet’s pit orchestra. Our archives are rich with collaborations, and we have a great history of working together to entertain and inspire this community.”

Lisa Mayer-Lang, Artistic Director of the Toledo Ballet, agrees, saying, “The Toledo Ballet and Toledo Symphony Orchestra have been collaborating for approximately 78 years. The merging of the two organizations solidifies what has been a wonderful and long-running relationship between us. We are thrilled to take these two organizations into a new direction of collaboration not only for the arts community, but also the entire Toledo region.”

Community service

In addition to collaboration on performances, the Symphony and the Ballet share a commitment to community education: Through the Toledo Symphony School of Music and three Toledo Symphony Youth Orchestras, The Toledo Symphony works with nearly 350 student performers each year. The Toledo Ballet School, which carries certification from the American Ballet Theatre, educates 300 students annually.

Once merged, the Toledo Symphony School of Music, Toledo Symphony Youth Orchestras, and Toledo Ballet School will continue in separate instruction spaces, but Vassar suggests future changes: “In time, I expect that our education activities will come together under one roof.”

The organizations not only look forward to enhanced collaboration, but more effective administration as a non-profit. Last year, the Symphony and the Ballet experimented with a shared service model for marketing, box office responsibilities, and other administrative tasks for the Ballet’s 2017 presentation of The Nutcracker. Not only did the collaborative smooth communication, but ticket sales increased by 25 percent.

Proof in the (sugar plum) pudding

The success of the 2017 Toledo Ballet season inspired the organizations to reconsider their relationship, which led them to apply for funding through the Toledo Community Foundation’s Strategic Alliance Partnership program. Once approved, the funding provided the services of La Piana, a California-based consultancy that specializes in non-profit mergers, who worked with the Symphony and the Ballet through a nine-month process to establish T.A.P.A.

“We are lucky to live in a community that so encourages collaboration,” remarked Vassar. “The team at the Toledo Community Foundation were supportive through this process. Along the way, they were curious about what we were baking. They really challenged us to dream big and consider something special for our community… For too long, we have heard about arts organizations struggling. And while it’s true that organizations might compete for attendance, we feel that this collaboration sends an important message to our community that these two growing organizations are joining forces to achieve greater heights together.”

When T.A.P.A. effectively merges as a non-profit until the new year, the two organizations will operate as “sibling brands” under the new organization’s umbrella. Currently, T.A.P.A. is not looking to partner with other organizations, but will consider the possibility in the future.

For more information, visit artstoledo.com.