- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Money is something a lot of busy young Washington computer gurus, lawyers and investment types have in abundance these days. What they don't have is much time for exposure to culture, although NSOvation, the National Symphony Orchestra's junior support group, is aiming to change that.

"Our primary purpose is to cultivate a younger group of patrons for the orchestra," said NSOvation president James Quigley as he stood on the terrace of DAR Constitution Hall welcoming young patrons to his organization's summer kickoff bash Thursday night.

"We're trying to expose them to concert events," he noted, "which is a little harder than it sounds because they really do need to build it into their weekend or weekday schedule a long time in advance."

That's why NSOvation is scheduling parties and other get-togethers to lure new members into attending concerts in the hope that, eventually, they will mature into loyal symphony subscribers.

The approach: for a mere $100, members gain entry to a number of exclusive events, including a Thursday black-tie garden party, a private gathering at a tony Georgetown home, picnics at Wolf Trap and tickets to two special NSOvation concerts followed by post-performance receptions. Recruits also get to tour the Kennedy Center's backstage area and receive discounted invitations to the National Symphony Orchestra Ball, one of Washington's premier society events.

It's an approach that works, said this year's garden party chairwoman, Kathy Prendergast, who cited an impressive growth in membership from 1993, when the organization had 45 members, to this year's count of 350 (with 400 targeted by year's end).

It won't be a hard sell, judging by the response of such supporters as Winston Bao Lord, who called NSOvation "one of the best deals going" during a break in conversation about his Memorial Day plans with fellow supporter Lee Lesley. "You get a subscription to the NSO, and you get to meet a lot of great people," he said. "It's a no-brainer."

Others, including high-tech entrepreneur Mark Ein, said they weren't accustomed to attending the symphony on a regular basis Mr. Ein prefers art museums but stressed that NSOvation gives them the chance to make the scene and enjoy a cocktail or two on a balmy spring evening with friends.

Guests generally are younger and more laid-back than at the usual black-tie affairs in Washington an observation that became clear near the end of the party when NSOvation council member Jill Dowell skittered shoeless from the dance floor onto the terrace to plop down on the lap of a wheelchair-bound NSOvation member who promptly took her for a spin.

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