Strings – How the Arts Connect Us with Ourselves and Others

When my eldest son was five, I enrolled him in Suzuki cello. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been drawn to the cello. Perhaps it was because my parents introduced me to classical music at a young age; I remember accompanying them to listen to chamber music recitals and the symphony. I also remember my Dad (a mathematician) playing classical guitar around the house. My elementary school didn’t have a strings department, so I settled for the flute, but as an adult I was excited to introduce my son to the beautifully haunting tones of my favorite instrument.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as I and his “career” as a cellist ended shortly after it began. I, on the other hand, decided there’s no time like the present and began taking lessons. I’ve pursued it off and on throughout the years; in 2013 when I struggled with an illness, in 2015 when I had the opportunity to perform with a group of cellists at Carnegie Hall, and most recently throughout quarantine taking lessons via zoom with my teacher in Puget Sound, WA.

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Throughout my life, particularly my adult life, I have found deep personal reward and gratification from creating something from start to finish; from an idea into something being fully formed. A piece of cloth, draped, cut, sewn and then worn. A plot of land waiting for a newly designed home to be built, with bird sanctuary, with garden, vegetable and flowers – how will it flow? A pattern construction awaits.

To learn and play a piece of music is exactly the same. I approach each piece of music by building out into notes and fingering, what does the specific key signature and pace mean, what expression did the composer have in mind when playing, how does the bowing work into this piece of music? To then take this piece of music to memory, to play with another cellist or pianist, to hear this coming from me and my cello is a wonderful self-accomplishment.

There are so few things where I can have this self-actualization from concept to completion. And yet, the beauty of music is that rarely is that piece of music ever completed. There are so many different interpretations, variations, course and quartets yet to come.

Music, dancing, drawing, sculpting, singing – they all help us both express and feel a spectrum of raw emotion. When experiencing the arts we feel pain, joy, despair and freedom, sometimes simultaneously.

Sadly, an unfortunate casualty of the recent pandemic and social unrest has been the arts. Performances have been postponed indefinitely. Galleries shuttered. Annual galas – which drive funding for annual budgets – cancelled altogether. While we need them more than ever, times of dramatic and turbulent societal disruptions are especially difficult for nonprofit organizations.

Many institutions have adapted. Viewers around the world enjoyed MOMA PS1’s live streamed documentary screenings, DJ sets and virtual workshops. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago featured guided meditation, drag queen storytelling and crafting guides for families via Instagram live. This summer the entire world will enjoy Hamilton from the comfort of their couches.

However, many continue to struggle, especially the smaller organizations.

I have had several clients express an interest in the best way to support artistic institutions, as well as other charitable organizations affected by the pandemic. There are several available options – one of which is to establish a donor advised fund. Through a donor advised fund, you have the flexibility to provide assets to one or more public charities when you wish, while receiving the income tax deduction for your gift in the year you make your contribution.

Gifts can be in the form of cash, mutual funds, stocks, bonds and real estate. Your contribution is placed into a donor advised fund where it can be invested and grow tax-free, making even more money available to your charity, and you will immediately receive the maximum tax deduction. A win/win.

Additionally, donor advised funds are significantly simpler and far less expensive to establish than foundations, yet like a foundation they create a legacy in your name (or whatever name you wish) and philanthropic vision that can be passed to succeeding generations. You have the opportunity to engage your children, grandchildren or other individuals and provide the experience of managing assets and sustaining a legacy.

A financial advisor will guide you in setting up a donor advised fund or any annual family giving strategy, but here are some questions to consider and help you get started:

  • What is your total annual gifting budget and how does this fit into your family asset picture or income/cash flow (both as dollar and a percentage)?
  • What are the broad areas you or your family are interested in supporting? Is there a dollar amount for each?
  • Within these broad areas, do you know what organizations or institutions you and your family want to support? Is there a stated reason why?
  • What is the dollar amount of support for each institution?
  • Over the course of the year, how will this money be given? Examples include: Annual benefit, Membership, Giving Tuesday campaign, and Sponsorship and Board commitment.

I would love to hear from you – what artistic organizations are you passionate about? Have you ever used art as therapy? Have you engaged your children in your philanthropic vision, either financially or through “roll up your sleeves” volunteer work?

As required by law, all contributions to a donor advised fund are under the exclusive legal control of the sponsoring Qualified Public Charity. The Qualified Public Charity has sole responsibility and authority for investing the Gift Account assets and may change the Investment option(s) at any time. You should consult with your own tax and legal advisors to determine how this information may apply to your own situation. Whether any planned tax result is realized by you will depend on the specific facts of your situation at the time your taxes are prepared.

Donor Advised Donors do not receive investment returns. The amount ultimately available for Donor directed grants may be more or less than Donor contributions to the Donor Advised Fund. While annual giving is encouraged, the Donor Advised Fund should be viewed as a long-term philanthropic program.

While the operations of Donor Advised Funds are regulated by the Internal Revenue Service, they are not guaranteed or insured by the United States or any of its agencies or instrumentalities. Contributions are not insured by the FDIC and are not deposits or other obligations of, or guaranteed by, any depository institution. Donor Advised Funds have not been registered under federal securities laws, pursuant to exemptions for charitable organizations.

Wells Fargo affiliates may be paid a referral fee in relation to clients referred to Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (WFB). WFB offers various advisory and fiduciary products and services. Financial Advisors of Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC (member SIPC), a separate non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company, may refer clients to Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. for an ongoing or one-time fee. The role of the Financial Advisor with respect to bank products and services is limited to referral and relationship management services. WFB is responsible for the day-to-day management of the account and for providing investment advice, investment management services and wealth management services to clients. The Financial Advisor does not provide investment advice or brokerage services to WFB accounts.

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