The Des Moines Symphony will receive its largest donation in the 85-year history of the organization. The Harriet S. and J. Locke Macomber Des Moines Symphony Fund — a $5 million endowment — is being established at the direction of Harriet Macomber upon her passing in 2020. The Macombers were lifelong Des Moines residents and regular supporters of the arts.

 “We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the Macombers,” said Richard Early, Symphony executive director. “It was a privilege for me to know Harriet. Her enthusiasm for the Des Moines Symphony and her attendance at our concerts was an inspiration to our board, musicians and staff.  It was always edifying when she would favorably compare her experiences in Des Moines to her many other symphonic experiences during her travels around the world. She loved her hometown orchestra. Harriet will always be dearly missed, and her legacy — and that of her husband, Locke — and their love of the arts will live on through their generous endowment.”

Mr. Macomber’s association with the Symphony began in the late 1950s. He served as treasurer of the Symphony from 1964 to 1965 until he was elected president in 1968. He was a dedicated Symphony board member until 1986. After Mr. Macomber’s passing in 1998, his wife, Harriet, continued to be a loyal follower and patron of the Symphony, attending its concerts and lectures and supporting the Symphony with generous monetary gifts each year.

“Harriet Macomber set the gold standard as a patron of her community. She had a keen interest in the arts and often traveled to other countries discovering new and exciting cultures,” said Maestro Joseph Giunta, Symphony music director. “Harriet and Locke’s philanthropic efforts were beyond incredible, and they have one common element — their love for Des Moines and commitment to making it a better place to live. We all are beneficiaries of their gifts as will be the generations that follow.”

About the fund

In a May 2 announcement, The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines — the administrator of the fund — said the endowment, totaling more than $45 million, was the largest estate gift in the organization’s more than 50-year history. While $5 million is designated for the Symphony, seven other local organizations are recipients of the Macombers’ generous donation, including the BWA Foundation, the Des Moines Art Center, Drake University Law School, Orchard Place, United Way of Central Iowa, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral and the YMCA of Greater Des Moines.

The Macomber Des Moines Symphony Fund will enable the Symphony to create exciting, innovative programming designed to sustain and build the Symphony’s audience while growing the Orchestra’s artistic standard of excellence. The Symphony will use the funds to underwrite an annual concert program in honor of the Macombers which may feature a world-renowned guest artist, special once-in-a-lifetime repertoire, or a world premiere of a commissioned work. The Symphony will also use part of the funds to lower the cost of student tickets — an initiative near and dear to the Macombers as they wished to reduce the financial barriers of central Iowa youth so that they could experience the power of the arts.

On Saturday, September 24, and Sunday, September 25, the Symphony will perform the first-ever Harriet S. and J. Locke Macomber Concert featuring guitarist Sharon Isbin and the works of Gershwin, Rodrigo and Ravel, along with a world premiere commission by composer Kevin Puts.