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Governor gets behind NJSO's quest for Rare Instruments
Originally appeared in the STAR-LEDGER on 12/12/02

The state will help the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra close the deal to purchase 30 rare Italian string instruments from philanthropist and collector Herbert Axelrod, Gov. James E. McGreevey said Tuesday.

McGreevey would not say whether grants, loans or a combination of both will be part of the assistance offered to the symphony, which is looking to buy an estimated $50 million worth of rare violins, violas and cellos at half price from Axelrod, a Monmouth County resident and long-time symphony supporter.

However, McGreevey said the state has "a full array of possible services" to offer the symphony.

"I asked them `What do you need from us?,'" he said.

McGreevey said funds from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority could be used to finance new offices for the orchestra, now based in Newark, along with appropriate storage space for the new instruments.

"This will place the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra on an elevated stature," McGreevey said about the deal, which he expects to be announced next month. "This is more than important. This is an opportunity that cannot pass us by."

McGreevey spent 90 minutes last week with symphony board chairman Victor Parsonnet and executive director Lawrence Tamburri, discussing the possible deal. ble deal.

The orchestra has possession of 30 Stradivarius, Guarneri del Gesu, Amat and other 17th and 18th century Italian violins, violas and cellos from Axelrod's collection. Orchestra musicians already are playing many of the instruments, even as purchase details are being worked out.

One financing option is the CRDA. By law, casinos must invest a percentage of gaming revenue in CRDA-approved of gaming revenue in CRDA-approved projects. The funds - in the form of grants, loans and bonds - are used for housing, community service, recreational and cultural facilities and economic development projects statewide. development projects statewide.

Tamburri said a new facility is one of several projects the orchestra is planning, but he would not say whether CRDA funds are being pursued.

"The symphony needs to have a permanent administrative and educational facility. We have a lot on our plate, and we have to do one thing'at a time," Tamburri said.

Tamburri expressed gratitude about the Governor's positive reaction to the symphony's situation.

"Certainly, we are pleased that the Governor cares so much about the symphony ... and we're glad (he) is aware and enthusiastic about what we're trying to do," Tamburri said.

Last winter, Axelrod and his wife, Evelyn, approached the orchestra with an offer to outfit its violin sections with $50 million worth of rare instruments for half price. Axelrod, 75, is the founder of founder of TFH Publications in Neptune City and Axelrod Realty in Allenhurst, and is the holder of several patents related to pet care.

Negotiations between Axelrod and the orchestra have resulted in the selection of 30 string instru- ments - a combination of violins, violas and cellos rather than only violins - for purchase.

Tamburri said a final deal has not yet been reached. As a result, many details have yet to be disclosed. How much money the orchestra will need to seal the deal is unclear, since the final purchase price is still being negotiated. Also unknown is how much money the orchestra has already secured in gifts and pledges from its donors and how much, if any, it will need to borrow.

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