Support for the arts was a luxury most banks couldn't afford after the meltdown, but not all of them stopped giving.
When donations to arts organizations dried up during the recession, Union Savings Bank in Ridgefield, Conn., kept backing the 23,000-person town's symphony and other cultural events.
"We've made a real effort over the past five years not to lose sight of our arts organizations," says Marie O'Neill, the bank's executive vice president and chief marketing officer. When push comes to shove, companies usually cut arts funding ahead of, say, social services, she says.
The bank this year donated $10,000 to the symphony, according to Gina Wilson, who recently retired as the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra's executive director.
"They've been a sponsor for quite a while," she said in an interview. "We're just incredibly grateful to them. I know the requests outweigh the ability to support."
Each year Union Savings receives funding requests from organizations across town. "Frankly, if you're a viable nonprofit, we'll usually give you a donation," O'Neill says.
In May, the bank sponsored the symphony's "Crazy for Gershwin" show, featuring some of the composer's most popular works, such as "Rhapsody in Blue." Broadway performer Debbie Gravitte also sang "Someone to Watch Over Me," "I Got Rhythm," and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off."
Union Savings typically sponsors one concert per year, and has some discretion in choosing the type of music that is associated with its brand. "It's usually my choice," says O'Neill, adding that the shows attract a range of age groups, from young families to senior citizens.
The bank's donation also supports the symphony's music program in the local schools, as well as pre-concert lectures and smaller shows for senior citizens in the area.
The Ridgefield Symphony was established 50 years ago as an amateur community group, Wilson says. But it has since grown into a fully professional ensemble. All members must go through an audition to join.
The group's music director, Gerald Steichen, is the principal pops conductor for the Utah Symphony and also a frequent guest director for the Boston Pops. He has also performed on stage for the New York City Opera, including in the production Porgy and Bess.
And, if that doesn't convince you of this small-town symphony's caliber, take a look at their most recent performance list, which includes music by Beethoven, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky.
Wilson says that next year, the bank will take a turn from Gershwin jazz and, instead, sponsor a classical concert with a young soloist.
The bank likes music that is "more accessible," she says.