Jim Berges and Elizabeth Mannen Berges are two of St. Louis’ biggest fans. They are proud of the caliber of the region’s cultural institutions, and they love to share that impact with others, especially when it comes to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. “Music takes you places,” says Elizabeth. “It widens worlds for people and intersects with so many areas of life. That’s why we are so involved with the SLSO. It is truly a world-class orchestra that makes our region better.”
Jim and Elizabeth both enjoyed playing instruments growing up. Jim attended orchestra concerts and listened to classical LPs with his family in Louisville, Kentucky. He also played folk guitar as a teenager. An East Coast transplant, Elizabeth studied viola through college. “It opened my world in ways I never could have imagined,” she said. That early relationship with music and music education made an impression on both of them. “I look at the SLSO and the music education programming it has offered St. Louis for more than 100 years and I think it’s fantastic,” Elizabeth said. “Any time you can make a child’s world bigger, especially through music, that’s a powerful thing.”
Music education is just one piece of what helps a region succeed. Jim acknowledges that for St. Louis to grow and thrive, and to attract and retain people in our region, “it needs to be a destination.” Both Jim and Elizabeth believe that the quality of cultural institutions in St. Louis, paired with its friendly spirit, makes it an ideal place to call home. “The SLSO,” Jim says, “is a vital piece of the St. Louis story.”
Their connection to that St. Louis story is something they are excited to share with others. Jim holds that “in order to be a great city, you have to support a great orchestra.” Elizabeth agrees, “It’s important people understand the SLSO is a nonprofit institution, with philanthropic gifts providing two-thirds of its budget each year. That’s why the community’s support is so critical.”
“We value the opportunity to experience music with the SLSO,” says Jim, “and it’s something we want to share with others.” Jim and Elizabeth are establishing the Berges Family Challenge to inspire others to give to the SLSO. Starting June 1 and running through the end of the summer, this challenge will match new and increased gifts, up to a total of $100,000. To make a gift as part of the Berges Family Challenge, visit slso.org/donate.