“The better you feel about yourself the easier it is to give back to others.” Reginald (Reggie) D. Gray has lived by his motto since graduating from Cornell in 1973. Reggie credits his experience at Cornell as his foundation to a very successful career in the restaurant business which segued into prosperity in commercial real estate. He stated that “It wasn’t just the education that influenced my accomplishments, but the self-confidence developed with my years at Cornell which affects every aspect of my life.” This certainly hasn’t changed.
After many years of periphery contributions to non-profit events through gift certificates and hosting fund raisers in his restaurants, Reggie felt it was time to change this pattern; it was time to give back to the community with himself. He inadvertently became a philanthropist by offering to serve time on a non-profit board. His interest in classical music enticed him to the National Repertory Orchestra (NRO).
The National Repertory Orchestra, a non-profit organization, is a preeminent intensive fellowship that equips young musicians for orchestral music careers while providing the highest-level of musical experience for all stakeholders. Alumni currently play in virtually every major and regional orchestra in the U. S. and in orchestras world-wide. The NRO performs two full orchestra concerts each week in Breckenridge’s Riverwalk Center between June and August. Musicians also play in smaller chamber concerts and the full orchestra is at several other locations in the state.
The year was 2003 when Reggie began his special events committee involvement. He was responsible for hosting intimate soirees in patrons’ homes featuring food, wine and music performed by NRO alumni, many who flew in just for the event. He also invited seasoned donors, known as the “sustainers”, to his own home to enjoy Carl Topilow, the accomplished NRO maestro, play the clarinet with a piano accompaniment. He was effectual in continuing these affairs with similar receptions at art galleries for visiting guest conductors. Reggie created the first ever “NRO Repertory Run”, a fun 10K race throughout Breckenridge. A hilarious “Talent Night”, held at Reggie’s own Gold Pan Saloon, was introduced where NRO musicians won prizes by performing by voice or instrument but were not allowed to play their normal orchestral instrument. In 2005 he was nominated to Vice President with the Presidency position following in 2006 which he served for two years. His leadership was off and running.
Being on a nonprofit board as solely a board member did take time attending semi-monthly board meetings that usually lasted 2 hours per meeting. When one becomes President-elect that time allotment multiplies exponentially. There were countless opportunities for Reggie to hone his public speaking skills; from addressing small committee groups to speaking during NRO intermissions to an audience of 800 people. Moreover, there were town council sessions, resort chamber meetings, arts council meetings and, of course, the one-on-ones with individual board members. As President, he had to prepare and lead these meetings. Reggie relied on Roberts Rules to more effectively run these sessions and diplomatically learned how to manage a plethora of volunteers with all of their interests and beliefs. As a result of all these experiences Reggie forged countless new friendships and developed relationships that have enhanced his life.
By example, Reggie demonstrated how hard one needed to work and the long hours necessary to be a successful volunteer for the organization. Through effective communication, training and recruiting methods, Reggie proved his extensive leadership skills. His tireless efforts and persistent demeanor toward the goodwill of the orchestra brought a consistent increase in donated time by volunteers, in kind donations from local businesses and monetary gifts from all.
His diligence was rewarded with many successes. One of the most prominent was the “Raise the Roof” campaign which provided a new hard-shelled roof covering the once tented Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge, Colorado. This state-of-the-art venue provided an upgrade in acoustics and a much appreciated comfort level for the patrons in their warm and quiet seats. No more ski parkas for the later part of the concert (it does dip down into the 40’s or below on summer nights) and events can be held year-round instead of seasonal. Also, through his influence, the NRO received the first ever National Endowment Grant (NEA); he was instrumental with the collaboration of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra performing joint concerts with the NRO to benefit the NRO’s Education and Community Engagement Program; he was involved with partnering the Colorado Children’s Chorale with the NRO for a free afternoon concert; the NRO by-laws were revamped under his tutelage; and his business skills were conducive in maintaining the profitability of the NRO.
Being leader of the executive committee included overseeing the Treasurers’ preparation of financial statements and having them audit ready for the 501c3 Audit. The negotiation and formation of the Conductor and Executive Directors’ contracts were an important outcome during Reggie’s term. Supervising and increasing the number of the board of directors to approximately 12-15 people by utilizing the chair of the Trustee Affairs Committee was paramount to the success of the organization by providing more access to the volunteer basis and future donations. As President he sat in on every NRO committee meeting which included marketing, special events, development, executive, finance and trustee affairs.
During Reggie’s term the Vision Statement for the orchestra was “To be an effective summer development symphony orchestra while helping Breckenridge become a destination for classical music audiences”. This vision does live on.
The community supports the efforts by the NRO board who work so hard to keep this great orchestra in Breckenridge. Residents, businesses and visitors alike are astounded by the high caliber of music that these artistes perform. Every year applications pour into the NRO office but only 1 out of 10 musicians are accepted for this prestigious internship. The post season surveys of the musicians experience with the NRO are consistently given a 5 star rating. Their summer is highlighted by the involvement of a “community link” group of volunteers who invite the musicians into their homes for dinner or take them out to restaurants. These good Samaritans also help the musicians enjoy the benefits of living in the mountains by introducing them to hiking, biking, fishing, river rafting or any pursuits they may have when not rehearsing or performing. The musical interns leave their NRO summer with the utmost appreciation for the opportunity to attend this celebrated fellowship and knowing they have made lifelong friends in fellow musicians and the close-knit Breckenridge community of volunteers.
With the presidency behind him, Reggie shifted his attention as the Special Events Chairperson. He has contributed to the many successes of the annual NRO Gala held in Denver, Colorado, which brings patrons and musicians together in a formal, fundraising gathering where the entire 88 piece orchestra plays for the attendees; he was a crucial influence for the 50th NRO Anniversary Bash held in 2009 and the Past Presidents fundraiser that same year; he has been an advocate in engaging sustainers organized as the auxiliary board; he regularly attends outreach performances by past and present NRO
musicians; he has continued to help develop home fundraisers to extend NRO awareness throughout the year; and he attends every concert during the summer.
Reggie’s ideas never seem to stop when it comes to sustaining the future for the NRO. He has embraced this organization as his own and even though the NRO has been around for over 50 years his wish is to keep it around for at least another 100 more years.