Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Receives its Largest Gift Ever

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Receives its Largest Gift Ever
Former Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Chair Lee Ronnel, who gave the nonprofit its largest gift ever (Arkansas Symphony Orchestra)

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday announced that it had received its largest gift ever from longtime supporter and former board chairman Lee Ronnel.

The nonprofit did not disclose the amount.

Ronnel, the founder and president of Metal Recycling Corp. of Little Rock, died in January at age 85. He was a professionally-trained pianist and staunch supporter of the symphony for more than half a century, leading multiple conductor search committees, co-chairing Opus Ball X with his wife Dale and receiving the Governor’s Patron of the Arts award.

In appreciation for Ronnel's donation, all of ASO's existing and future music education and community engagement programs will be held through the E. Lee Ronnel Music Academy. ASO said the academy will help expand its capacity to reach and serve children and adults through programming that includes youth orchestras, a community orchestra and summer camps.

"Lee’s support, friendship and commitment to the arts have helped the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra grow and thrive since our earliest days," Christina Littlejohn, COE of ASO, said in a news release. "He truly loved supporting musicians and their work."

In addition to supporting ASO’s community engagement and music education programs, a portion of Ronnel’s gift will fund an endowment to support operating costs for the future ASO Stella Boyle Smith Music Center. The $9 million, 20,000-SF center in Little Rock's East Village was announced in January, when ASO had raised about 60% of funds needed for the project.

The symphony in June received another $1.5 million through of a two-to-one challenge grant from the Windgate Foundation. At the time, the symphony said it was on track to hit its fundraising target by April.

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