Thomas T. Hammond takes quiet pride in Orange County's Opera Pacific, which has grown in the past three years from a $200,000-a-year semiprofessional ensemble to a nationally known production and performance company with a budget of $4.1 million.
He'll talk briefly about being president of the opera's board of directors. He'll mention in passing that the employees of his mortgage banking firm do everything from stuffing envelopes to guiding the opera's budget and financial future, that the Hammond Co. gives about $20,000 to the opera each year.
But if you really want to get Hammond talking, ask him about programs--the kind that guide music lovers through the intricacies of a performance.
"I am the best program seller that the opera has," Hammond said. "I'm the best barker they have. I have the record of the largest number of programs sold in one night--$700 worth."
At about $2 a shot, that's a lot of programs and a lot of dedication. That depth of commitment--on so many levels--is what has earned the Hammond Co. its first "Business in the Arts Award," an honor bestowed Sunday night upon the Newport Beach firm and 11 other local companies.
The awards were presented by the Orange County Business Committee for the Arts in the group's sixth annual awards ceremony at the Newport Harbor Art Museum. Founded in 1981 by Fluor Corp. Chairman David S. Tappan Jr. and other area businessmen, the group is the local branch of a national organization that encourages business support of the arts.
And when the committee talks support, it means real zeal, more than just an occasional check at tax-deduction time.
Not that there's anything wrong with money, said Betty R. Moss, executive director of the committee. "Certainly there are major donations made, but it's not just the donation, it's the involvement of a company. Some of these companies become absolutely steeped in their commitment to a particular arts group. They offer use of staff of their company, have hands-on leadership roles."
And the Hammond Co.--with 350 employees and operations in four states--is "a great example" of such effort, Moss said.
If not for the mortgage banking firm, opera managing director Martin Weil said, "we might not be a company at all.
"I think Tom was one of a handful of key board members who, in 1985, determined that this company was going to become a professional producing company," he said. "The brilliance of what Tom in particular was able to do was to set the (opera) company off in a very, very strong financial and fiduciary position."
Several of the awards presented at Sunday's sold-out tribute and dinner should have been no surprise to those familiar with the local arts scene. C.J. Segerstrom & Sons, the Irvine Co. and the Mission Viejo Co. all were honored as "distinguished award winners," or companies lauded several times in the past that have continued their support.
Segerstrom was honored this year for its donation of the "Fire Bird" sculpture that graces the front of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, among other company projects. The Irvine Co., which also had a major role in the Center opening, received its award for donating 10 acres of land it values at $10 million to the Newport Harbor Art Museum for the museum's expansion. And the Mission Viejo Co. was lauded for sponsoring three performing arts series.
But a company does not have to be big to support the arts. Tiny GoodSmith & Co. is perfect proof.
Although the lease brokerage firm has just five employees, it has provided continuous use of its office facilities and the aid of its staff members for the ongoing administration of the Master Chorale of Orange County. It has also provided the part-time services of its operations manager in support of the chorale's fund-raiser, an auction that raised nearly $100,000 for the singing ensemble.
This year's other award-winning companies are O'Donnell, Brigham & Partners, Costa Mesa; Orco Block Co., Stanton; First Interstate Bank, Newport Beach; Pacific Bell, Orange; the Fieldstone Co., Newport Beach; the Orange County Register, Santa Ana, and Pacific Mutual, Newport Beach.
Winner of a separate award given to an arts group was Stop-Gap, a drama therapy program that confronts such social issues as teen-age drug abuse, life-threatening illness, emotional and learning disabilities and abused children.
To Moss, companies that support the arts help the community. She emphasized that such support is growing in Orange County, noting that the business committee for the arts increased the number of its awards from 10 to 12 this year "to allow greater recognition of the many outstanding programs."
Thomas Hammond contended that business benefits when there is culture in a community.
"We're in the business of making house loans to families," he said. "And the well-being of the communities is very important to us. . . . I think that Orange County in particular would be far worse off without an opera company and a music center. These are the things that make our communities work and a decent place to live in."
THIS YEAR'S AWARD WINNERSFieldstone Co. Newport Beach
First Interstate Bank Newport Beach
GoodSmith & Co. Costa Mesa
Hammond Co. Newport Beach
Irvine Co. Newport Beach
Mission Viejo Co. Mission Viejo
O'Donnell, Brigham & Partners Costa Mesa
Orange County Register Santa Ana
Orco Block Co. Stanton
Pacific Bell Orange
Pacific Mutual Newport Beach
C.J. Segerstrom & Sons Costa Mesa