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Lynn and Joe Manko - In the Spotlight

November 01, 2012

A Monthly Series of Donor and Patron Profiles

Lynn and Joe Manko love The Philadelphia Orchestra. But theirs is a love story that goes beyond buying tickets—although it’s worth mentioning that they have not one, but two subscriptions (for Thursday and Saturday nights). They are involved. They are members of the Annual Fund’s Maestro’s Circle, and Lynn has been a member of the Central Volunteer Committee for a number of years and is also chairman of the Volunteers’ Annual Fund campaign. Joe got more deeply involved about two years ago when he and Lynn were at a Salon Series event with Board Chairman Richard Worley and President Allison Vulgamore. When the floor was opened to questions, Joe seized the moment. Afterward Mr. Worley approached him and said, “You have some interesting and incisive comments and I’d really like to get you involved with the Orchestra.” Soon after Joe became part of the committee that helped raise money for the Association’s recovery and transformation funds during its recent reorganization. It was important to him to step in at that crucial moment because both he and Lynn care deeply about the future of the Orchestra.

And their advocacy for The Philadelphia Orchestra doesn’t stop there. They often buy extra tickets so that they bring people who haven’t yet discovered everything the Orchestra has to offer. They also feel that education and getting out into the community are essential to the survival of not only the Orchestra, but the arts in general. Sharing their passion for classical music and the Orchestra in particular is almost second nature to them.

“We carry the Orchestra with us wherever we go.”

Lynn and Joe Manko photo

Above: Lynn and Joe Manko

Both Lynn and Joe, natives of the Philadelphia area, were exposed to the arts as youngsters: Lynn took ballet lessons and Joe studied the violin up until the ninth grade. Lynn’s first experience with hearing the Orchestra was in sixth grade, when students were bussed to evening performances at the Academy. She remembers being fascinated by the entire experience, “and the Academy was part of that. So when we started going regularly as adults it felt like going home.”

Joe was first introduced to classical music listening to his grandfather’s 78 rpm records, but it didn’t quite resonate with him at that age. As he says, “It didn’t do anything for me.” Then in high school one of his friends was very knowledgeable about music and in college he had a roommate who was a real aficionado, and they would listen to classical music almost constantly. He still remembers the first classical record he bought: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 on one side and Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 on the other.

Around that same time, he and Lynn began to date and Lynn’s aunt was a Friend of the Robin Hood Dell. The couple would clip coupons to sit on the Dell lawn and during intermission her aunt would sneak them into the Friend’s section. Together their love for classical music blossomed even further to the point where they hoped that one day they would be able to afford to be a Friend of classical music, too.

They purchased their first subscription to the Orchestra many years ago, when Joe became a law partner here in Philadelphia. It was a time when there weren’t so many things vying for people’s attention: the Orchestra was always sold out and tickets were very difficult to come by. A wife of one of his business partners passed away and the partner asked around to see if anyone wanted to buy half a subscription. Joe was the first one to respond. Their friend eventually dropped out altogether and Lynn and Joe were able to take over the full nine-concert subscription. But, their love for classical music and the Orchestra already having taken hold, they realized that nine concerts weren’t enough, so they eventually added another six-concert subscription on top of that.

Beyond the music the Mankos are passionate about education and specifically, teaching children the value and importance of the arts and music. They exposed their own children to music through recordings and by taking them to children’s concerts at the Dell and the Academy. They firmly believe that the lack of music education in the public school system is one of the reasons the audiences are dwindling. “Music in school is the key,” says Lynn. “And that’s the first thing to get cut,” Joe adds. They invite their children and grandchildren to concerts (two of their grandchildren play instruments) and their hope is to pass their love of classical music from generation to generation.

“Young people are visual,” says Joe, and the Stokowski Celebration concerts this past June at the Academy were what they think will help attract a younger audience. “The Stokowski concerts were phenomenal. They really set the right tone and were the right direction for the Orchestra to go in,” says Lynn. “I hope that type of thing will continue in the future.” Joe would like to see more “mixing of the arts,” such as when the Orchestra will perform Rite of Spring in February in collaboration with New York-based Ridge Theater. “Yannick is a great hope and he will do that—team up with opera, theater, ballet—and make it all work together.”

They also believe strongly in community outreach, and are quick to mention the Orchestra’s Neighborhood Concert Series (this past year at Penn’s Landing and Curtis Arboretum) and its performances at such places throughout the region as Longwood Gardens as important steps in this direction. The Mankos acknowledge the difficulty in this day and age for people to find the time to go to concerts and truly enjoy music. So often many of us work long hours or have children who are overscheduled and overwhelmed with homework, athletic commitments, and other after-school activities. Joe and Lynn believe that the more the Orchestra can reach out to those people in their own communities, the greater the impact it will have in building new audiences.

Lynn and Joe Manko, while unique in their specific support of the Orchestra, are like so many other patrons in their devotion to the music and the musicians. “I love just listening and watching the musicians, especially the cellists,” says Lynn. “It’s fascinating. Watching individuals, observing them onstage listening to, and interacting with, each other. You can’t go to a performance and not feel the camaraderie between the musicians. That’s one of the things that is unique about this Orchestra.” In addition, Joe says, “I just love beautiful music, especially when it’s performed by this ensemble. I’ll never get tired of it. We really appreciate everything about the Orchestra.”