Volume 73, Number 50 | March 14 - 20, 2004

Festival and Chamber to make sweet music together

By Deborah Lynn Blumberg

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

Peggy Friedman, director of the Washington Square Music Festival, left, and Michael Haberman, chairperson of the board of directors of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, in Washington Sq. Park.

The Washington Square Music Festival and the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce hope a new partnership will help reinvigorate the festival’s free summer classical music and jazz concerts as well as promote restaurants and stores in the community.

Representatives from both organizations formed the partnership after the 46-year-old festival lost one of its financial supporters last year, and organizers found themselves low on funding, said Peggy Friedman, the festival’s executive director. The new relationship will benefit both the festival and area businesses, said Michael Haberman, chairperson of the board of the Chamber of Commerce, calling it a “win-win situation.”

“The Chamber of Commerce is interested in the commercial aspect of life in the Village, and we’re interested in the cultural aspect,” Friedman said. “The two can really go hand in hand.”

Through the partnership, the nonprofit Chamber of Commerce will make a financial contribution to the festival, and its 200 members will help promote the music series through flyers and signs in their stores. “The Chamber gave us a sizable grant for this year,” Friedman said. “We still have a deficit, but it’s smaller. They really helped us along.”

Several businesses will also donate food to the concert series’ May 23 fundraising cocktail party, and area restaurants will also offer special “Music Festival Dinners.” On the nights of performances, restaurants near Washington Sq. will offer customers discounted or special fixed-price meals.

“The Chamber of Commerce’s central mission is to improve the business community in Chelsea and the Village,” Haberman said. “[The festival] is an event that brings in people from the community and from outside the community. Hopefully this partnership will help our members.”

Both organizations also plan to promote each other in printed materials and on their Web sites, said Friedman, who recently moved to the country after living in the Village for the past 60 years. In 1953, Friedman’s mother, Peggy Campbell, founded the festival, which is sponsored by the Washington Square Association, Inc., the venerable civic organization on the square.

“We’re not only getting money, but the Chamber is helping us to get more recognition,” Friedman said. “I think it’s great that businesses down here are recognizing how important this music festival is for the community.”

The partnership will help the festival reach out to Village residents who may have overlooked magazine and newspaper advertisements for the series, she said, and bring new attendees to the concerts. “We always want new audience members,” Friedman said. “This is a real grassroots way of getting people. It’s always good to have a new method, and I’m excited about it.”

The Washington Square Musical Festival will hold four free outdoor shows in the southeast section of Washington Sq. Park on Tuesdays in July — three classical concerts and one swing-band jazz concert. The performers regularly play in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and in the Metropolitan and New York City Opera orchestras.

Other festival sponsors include the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through the offices of State Senator Thomas K. Duane and Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick, the New York State Council on the Arts, City Councilmember Alan Jay Gerson and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

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