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By Peter J. Eliopoulos

Two tourists approached Russian violinist Mischa Elman on 57th Street after he left Carnegie Hall one day following a particularly difficult rehearsal, according to New York City folklore.

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” they asked him.

“You practice,” the passionate musician snapped.

No doubt the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has been practicing recently. The BPO heads to one of the world’s most storied performance halls – “Andrew Carnegie’s Music Hall” – on May 8. The orchestra will carry the flag for Buffalo’s cultural institutions. BPO members are musical ambassadors for the city.

When the BPO succeeds, our community succeeds. When the BPO plays Carnegie Hall, the soul of Western New York fills the building’s Isaac Stern Main Hall. The philharmonic is one of our finest civic assets.

Through the generous support of Buffalo area businesses and the patronage of Western New Yorkers, our community has maintained a symphony orchestra ranking among the finest for any mid-sized city in America. This is no small feat. One needs only to look at the financial struggles of orchestras in other small- to mid-sized cities nearby to realize the scope of this accomplishment.

Thanks to the musical leadership of JoAnn Falletta, the BPO now has the chance to return to one of America’s grandest stages, a hall that has hosted the likes of Sergei Rachmaninoff, Josef Hofmann, Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma. Falletta has called the event, “our Super Bowl.”

This is a wonderful opportunity for the community to take the trip with them. If you’ve ever thought of enjoying New York City in springtime, what better time than the present, when you can also support one of our community treasures? Through the BPO’s “All Roads Lead to Carnegie Hall” campaign, there are a number of ways businesses and music patrons alike can participate in this community celebration of classical music. The BPO has the best seats on reserve until early March, so now is the ideal time to reserve your tickets. Further information is available at www.bpo.org.

When the Toledo Symphony Orchestra played Carnegie Hall in 2011, almost half the 2,804-seat Main Hall was filled with fans from Toledo. Surely our musicians would love to enjoy similar support.

Falletta has planned a great program – all Russian – including two works that are quite opposite in style. She selected the program because of the power of the music and the fact that these are rarely performed treasures. They also highlight the virtuosity and strength of our musicians.

Let’s reward them for all that practice and hard work. Just let me know if you need directions to Carnegie Hall.

Peter J. Eliopoulos is chief marketing officer of M&T Bank.