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$500K Gift Brings ASO Music Center Closer to Groundbreaking

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First Orion of North Little Rock CEO Charles Morgan and his wife Susie have donated $500,000 to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s new music center, the nonprofit announced Wednesday.

ASO said that in honor of the gift, the performance hall in the new Stella Boyle Smith Music Center will be named Morgan Hall. The gift is the Morgans’ second $500,000 contribution to the project.

ASO announced in January 2022 that it was planning a 20,000-SF music center in Little Rock’s East Village neighborhood. Since then, the Morgans have helped lead fundraising efforts, according to Christina Littlejohn, CEO of the nonprofit.

The Morgans’ latest donation completes a $3 million fundraising goal to unlock an additional $1.5 million challenge grant by the Windgate Foundation, ASO said in a news release. To date, $11 million has been raised for the project, and less than $800,000 remains to break ground on the center.

The original $9 million estimated cost of the project has grown due to rising interest rates and construction costs.

“The symphony is incredibly humbled by the generosity and trust of the Morgan family … Now, as we approach our final goal, they have stepped forward once again to help the performing arts flourish in our city and state,” Littlejohn said in a statement. “The strong support of the Morgans and our entire community of donors is why the symphony is in such a strong position today.”

The center was designed by Witsell Evans Rasco Architects of Little Rock. It will sit at southeast corner of 3rd Street and World Avenue near the Clinton Presidential Library and the headquarters of Heifer International.

ASO said the center will be a “radically welcoming hub of musical activity for all Arkansans.” It will greatly expand ASO’s capacity for programming and engagement, with extra rehearsal and performance space, a broadcasting and recording studio, music classrooms, and climate-controlled instrument storage.

“Live music brings the community together in joy. Creating those times for Arkansans has always been important to Charles and me,” Susie Morgan, a lifetime member of the ASO board of directors, said in the release. “The ASO provides ways for children as young as four to learn an instrument and make music with others. Through music participation, our young people learn teamwork, communication and new ways of seeing the world, skills that make our communities stronger.

“We are happy to support the ASO and its service to our state for the next 50 years and make the future brighter for generations to come.”

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