It is a marriage that is, literally, a work of art.
Bob and Martha Snider had already spent most of their lives immersed in the arts when they met in September of 2008.
Bob had always drawn and painted — in college at Ouachita Baptist University he was the only art major on a football scholarship. Martha had been a high school trombonist who grew up in a large, musical family in which the daughters danced around the room while their father listened to the classics.
Throughout their adult lives each continued, in different ways, to support, patronize and practice the arts. So it’s natural that they met at an art event.
Bob, by now an established painter in his own right, was helping to organize biblical-themed shows for churches and Martha had been invited by a mutual friend to Fellowship Bible Church, where Bob was setting up an exhibit based on the prodigal son.
By May of 2010 they were married, combining their wealth of knowledge and love for the arts into a collaboration that has led them, among other things, to support the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and to co-chair this year’s gala, Opus Ball XXXV.
“Art, music, dance all raise life above mere existence,” Martha says.
Which is exactly what Opus is about. The ASO fundraiser supports the symphony’s youth orchestra and its programs for children, opening minds and providing life experiences they might not otherwise have.
“Learning and playing an instrument requires time, skill, practice, responsibility, teamwork and much perseverance,” Martha says. “These are all important skills and lessons that can carry a child throughout life.”
This youth component resonates with the Sniders. Both began developing their artistic skills at a young age and often had the support of adults that kept their interests alive.
Bob recalls being “the kid in the back of the class drawing pictures of the English teacher in high school.” Martha describes a childhood in which she and her five siblings were expected to take at least a few years of piano lessons, and one sister went on to become a concert pianist.
“My grandfather would say, ‘Someone who plays the piano is always welcome at a party,’” Martha says.
Martha and her twin sister took up the trombone and saxophone, respectively, and for a time undersized Martha had to use her foot to reach some of the positions on the trombone slide.
Bob pursued his passion for drawing and painting through his art major at OBU, but added a business major and MBA that eventually led him to a 30-year career as an investment banker with T.J. Raney/Morgan Keegan.
“But my love of art was somehow integrated into everything I touched during those years,” he says.
In March 2017, Bob was named an artist-in-residence at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, sold paintings to the Jockey Club at Oaklawn in Hot Springs and also currently represents six galleries, including The Art Group Gallery in Little Rock. Expanding on her own artistic talents, Martha is learning pottery at the Arkansas Arts Center and is a reading facilitator for the literacy initiative ARKids Read, among other pursuits.
A Picture’s Worth
The Sniders had been Opus regulars for seven years before someone invited them to join their table, after which the Sniders began to host a table of their own.
Their co-chairmanship comes at an interesting time for the symphony, which entered this season without a full-time conductor and is anticipating an eclectic lineup of guest conductors.
“I’m sure it will be challenging for the instrumentalists to adapt to each conductor’s methods of directing,” Martha says. “Fortunately for us, we just get to sit back and enjoy the diversity and talents of these varied conductors.”
The 2019-2020 Masterworks and Pops Live! lineup features five guest conductors plus a concert conducted by interim artistic director and associate conductor Geoffrey Robson. Musical selections will include works from Mendelssohn, Schubert and Beethoven as well as the popular “Film With Orchestra” concerts that, this year, feature music from “Home Alone” and “Jurassic Park.”
“I’ve had the privilege of working with deeply knowledgeable and passionate stakeholders who shared many powerful ideas that helped to shape this season’s program,” Robson said when the schedule was announced in March.
Grammy winner JoAnn Falletta of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony opened the ASO’s season, and Vladimir Kulenovic, music director of the Lake Forest Symphony in Chicago, will close the season in May with cello soloist Zuill Bailey.
Other guest conductors include Andrew Grams, who has performed with major orchestras in the U.S. and around the world; Carolyn Kuan, music director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra; and Eric Jacobsen, cellist and music director for the Orlando Philharmonic and Greater Bridgeport Symphony.
Likewise, the Sinders approached planning for the Opus Ball with music in mind, beginning nearly a year ago when they were asked to take on the project. They began to dream up a theme that included a collaboration of art and music based on Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.”
The evening will be organized around the four seasons in Arkansas, portrayed through original artwork supplied by some of the state’s best landscape artists and photographers — the retail value of which sits at approximately $100,000 — and supported by an ASO string quartet.
As the political, economic and cultural center of Arkansas, Little Rock can’t claim to be a leader in the arts without showing the way through the work of its artists or the local symphony, Bob says. It is a plus to have a vibrant arts community on the level of those found in Dallas or Memphis, but within easy reach right here in Arkansas.
“From the standpoint of the quality of life in our community and economic development and job creation, it is important that our cultural institutions be marked by excellence,” Bob says. “The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Robinson Center and many other organizations make our community vibrant and a desirable place to live.”