Longtime Columbus philanthropists Bob and Helen Haddad are donating to the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic the downtown building which serves as the orchestra’s office and music instruction space. The structure at 315 Franklin St. has served as the orchestra’s home since 2003.

The announcement was made Monday during a luncheon hosted by the Philharmonic at Harrison Lake Country Club, which Bob Haddad owns, in Columbus. Bob Haddad also is founder, owner and chief executive officer of Columbus Container Inc., which makes various forms of packaging.

Until now, The Philharmonic — which was founded in 1987 — paid rent for the structure.

The three-story, 5,000-square-foot brick building houses six staff offices, a music library and space for equipment storage. It is also used for private and group music lessons, youth ensemble rehearsals and other education-related activities throughout the year.

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“It has been an enormous pleasure for us to see the Philharmonic’s growth and success,” said Helen Haddad, a singer and former music teacher, in a news release. “The Philharmonic’s music, concerts, strings classes, youth orchestra and children’s choirs are a positive influence in the lives of those living in and around the Columbus community.”

Helen Haddad has been a fixture at youth orchestra performances for years. The couple donated a van for the Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir. And the pair co-chaired the orchestra’s successful, 1990s endowment drive in which they made a $500,000 challenge gift that was met.

They also have supported the Philharmonic’s varied education programs, including providing an annual grant for many years to fund the education director staff position. For their efforts, the orchestra honored them with its Golden Baton Award in 2006. The annual award goes to a volunteer or volunteers giving in generous ways of their time, talent and/or treasure to the local musical arts scene.

Envy of others

Philharmonic Music Director David Bowden mentioned that when Henry Fogel, then president and CEO of what is now the League of American Orchestras, visited the office several years ago, he was wowed. And he told Bowden that the Philharmonic “was the envy of nearly every other orchestra in the nation.”

For perspective, Bowden said even the New York Philharmonic does not have the teaching space the local ensemble does.

The Haddads’ gift will allow the orchestra, with an annual budget of about $700,000, to modify some of the space to make it better fit current needs, Bowden said.

“This means we now are in a position where we don’t have to look into the future and ask, ‘What will happen to us if the building is sold?'” Bowden said. “What if things change? Until now, we’ve always maintained some kind of contingency plan.

“But now, we have a permanent home in Columbus. It allows us to plan and project strategically from a stable home.”

A foundation

Stability with costs remains a big issue nationwide on the orchestral scene, where a number of major metro ensembles in recent years have either significantly trimmed budgets or even disbanded.

Peter King, Philharmonic board president, called it exceptional that an orchestra its size will now own its own building.

Helen Haddad, a college music major and a veteran of choral groups mostly in the South before moving to Columbus, has sung with the Philharmonic Chorus since its inception in 1987 until just recently. In the mid-1950s, she performed with a female sextet appearing with a men’s glee club on national television’s “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

“That was quite an event,” she said.

Her involvement in the chorus has been about more than music.

For example, when the chorus performed George Frideric Handel’s oratorio, “Israel in Egypt,” in 2004, Haddad spoke beforehand with enthusiasm about that experience affording her a chance to learn more of Jewish faith and history.

The couple also has been supporters of music in general locally, attending performances, for example, of the former Music At Asbury series that featured acts from ethnic folk groups to brass ensembles.

Carter Chicken Hatchery and then Cummins Inc. inhabited the turn-of-the-century building before the Philharmonic moved there. A $13,000 grant from The Heritage Fund: The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, covered the expense of the orchestra moving out of much smaller, second-floor space at the former Commons and into the Franklin Street structure.

About the building

Where: 315 Franklin St. in Columbus.

Orchestra home since: 2003.

Size: About 5,000 square feet.

Physical features: Three-story brick.

Housing: Administrative staff, music instruction and other activities.

Even more philanthropy

The generosity of Bob and Helen Haddad extends well beyond the arts and the Harrison Lake Country Club, where Bob Haddad paid off $3.3 million in debt to save the place in 2005.

Since 2002, the Haddad Foundation’s charitable contributions have helped numerous organizations serve the needs within the community and have helped to enhance various opportunities for local residents.

Bob and Helen Haddad’s giving tradition originated in response to the community’s support of Columbus Container Inc., which Bob Haddad founded, and their desire to improve the community. As a result of the couple’s passion to continue their philanthropic legacy, they established the Haddad Foundation, managed by four of their children: Tammy Burton, Bob Haddad, Jr., Tracy Haddad and Hayden Haddad Bishop.

The Haddad children have taken an active philanthropic role in the communities in which they work and live to support the community’s priority areas — youth development, artistic programming, education, medical/health care advancement, and disaster relief.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.