FOR A GOOD CAUSE: Donna McCann, Syracuse Sounds of Music Association

What is the Syracuse Sounds of Music Association?

The Syracuse Sounds of Music Association, Inc. is a non-profit charitable organization that advocates for the promotion and support of music throughout the Central New York area. We do this through a number of fundraising activities and events. Proceeds from all our efforts are disbursed to a variety of non-profit organizations that provide music programming. We also award two scholarships every year.


What is your role at SSMA?

Presently I hold the office of president and work collaboratively with board members to carry out our mission. Our board consists of 22 amazing men and women from all walks of life who believe that supporting the vibrant music community in Central New York is important.


Can you tell me about the organization’s history?

In 1957, a dedicated group of women who believed that Syracuse should have an orchestra formed the Syracuse Symphony Guild. In 1960, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra was established, and the Syracuse Symphony Association (the Guild’s successor) was there to help support it financially through fundraising.

In the spring of 2011, the SSO began the transition to a new business model and officially became Symphoria in December of 2012. The SSA reorganized as well, becoming the Syracuse Sounds of Music Association, Inc. (SSMA) in the fall of 2011. Since then, the SSMA has gone forward with a fresh new vigor, and a new mission: to raise funds to support not only Symphoria, but many CNY non-profit organizations that provide music programming.


What organizations do you support?

Grants are available to 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations for special events or projects having to do with music. This may include sponsorship of a concert, continuing education projects, hiring guest artists, purchase of music, instruments or other music equipment or repair of instruments. CNY Association of Music Teachers was awarded grant funding for student tuition assistance for a summer camp. We assisted with the funding of the Brady Faith Center’s “Brady’s Seeds for the Arts” program which offers in-house music lessons on guitar, piano and voice to underprivileged youth aged 7 to 25. In addition to the above organizations, in December 2019, the following grants were disbursed to the following recipients:


  • Central Winds: Music Educators’ Wind Ensemble
  • Civic Morning Musicals
  • Front Row Players
  • CNY Jazz Arts Foundation
  • Onondaga Civic Symphony Orchestra
  • Schola Musicorum
  • Skaneateles Festival
  • Society for New Music
  • Symphoria Healing Harmonies
  • Symphoria Youth Orchestras
  • Syracuse Children’s Chorus
  • Syracuse Chorale
  • Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music
  • Syracuse Opera
  • Syracuse Pops Chorus
  • Temple Concord Goldenberg Cultural Series

In December, the Syracuse Sounds of Music Association also helped to sponsor Symphoria’s Holiday Pops performances, Kids Concerts, and the “Kids 4 Free” ticket program. Grant applications and information for 2019 will be available at in late September.


Tell me about the Encore Thrift Shop in Fayetteville.

Encore Thrift Shop, at 119 Brooklea Drive in Fayetteville, is our most successful “full time fundraiser,” and has been in business for almost 14 years. It is managed by Board Member Andrea Calarco and is staffed by volunteers from the community as well as other board members who volunteer their time.  Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Donations of women’s clothing, shoes, books, jewelry and small household items in very good condition are accepted during business hours. If you haven’t visited us, please stop by. Many of our customers comment that we have a “boutique-like” atmosphere!


How do you raise money?

In addition to our Encore Thrift Shop, we host events at least twice a year. “Music Matters” has been our preeminent fall fundraiser where we conduct a silent auction with items donated by individuals from of our community as well as local businesses. Each year we recognize someone who has shown extraordinary support and dedication to music in Central New York with the Ovation Award. This year we will be honoring Ida Tili-Trebicka on Oct. 24 at Traditions At the Links in East Syracuse. Our holiday event, “Intermezzo,” is a luncheon held in early December with musical entertainment, where we offer specially selected items from Encore. For the past two years, we have also held fashion show events that have been very successful. We strive to continue to support music in our community and greatly appreciate your support.  Donations can be mailed to: SSMA, PO Box 85, Fayetteville NY 13066.


Tell me about your scholarship program. Who was Sally Whittle? How can students qualify?

The SSMA presents the Sally Whittle Memorial Scholarship for Musical excellence to a high school senior planning to study instrumental music, voice or music education. To be eligible, the student must be accepted to an accredited music program at a college, university or conservatory.  This scholarship was started over 25 years ago in memory of Sally Whittle, a past member of our board of directors. The amount granted will vary, dependent on that year’s proceeds and donations. In 2019, we awarded two scholarships in the amount of $2,000 each. Information regarding the application process can be found at under the “Scholarship” tab. Updated information for 2020 will be available on our website mid-April, 2020.  This scholarship is funded with 10% of all SSMA event proceeds, as well as contributions from the Whittle Family.


Why is music so important to the community? Why should we support it?

Music is the universal language. It can enhance your emotions and let your imagination flow. It’s good for your memory and brings us pleasure.  With so much access to recorded music, we often neglect the importance of attending live events that can touch the soul in ways that recorded music simply cannot.  It connects the performers with the audience in an intimate and powerful way that can’t be experienced through recorded music.  There is also an opportunity for exposure to a wide range of music you may not hear in your daily life. Music plays an important role in bringing people together!


Is there anything else you’d like people to know?

We are always looking for volunteers to work at our thrift shop as well as new SSMA Board members. Please email any questions you may have to [email protected]