SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Symphony and Opera is getting a gift that should be music to the ears of members and supporters.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation will donate $500,000 to the music organization, officials announced Thursday.

"The foundation and other donors recognize the musicians' and staff members' significant sacrifices to help keep the organization viable during these challenging economic times," said Mark Willes, president of Deseret Management Corp., the company that oversees the foundation. "The Utah Symphony and Opera is a great asset and an important part of our state's cultural landscape. We are pleased to join with other donors in providing bridge funding to help at this critical time, and applaud their efforts to find ways to establish a stronger operating base."

Symphony leaders will receive $200,000 outright, while the remaining $300,000 will be donated as a challenge grant that encourages businesses and donors to make matching contributions.

Melia Tourangeau, president and chief executive officer of the Utah Symphony and Opera, said the LDS Foundation's gift will help her organization stay in the black despite big budget shortfalls.

"When we started this fiscal year, in light of the economic situation, we had a huge shortfall in our formulated funds," said Tourangeau. In total, the organization was short $2.6 million.

Musicians accepted a $500,000 cut in salary and benefits a year ago, and in October, they donated another $1.3 million in salary and benefits back to the organization. But even after those cuts, the organization still needed almost a million dollars to make up the shortfall.

"With this gift, we have a real fighting chance of balancing the budget this year," Tourangeau said. "Which is huge for this economic climate."

The LDS Foundation is one of several organizations that have donated generously to the Utah Symphony and Opera. O.C. Tanner, the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, the Wasatch Group, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation and the Shiebler Family Foundation also have contributed significant amounts to help the musical group stay afloat this year.

But Tourangeau said one of the greatest parts of the LDS Foundation's gift is how public it was.

"Typically, when they do major giving, they like to be quiet and in the background," she said. "Because they are making this so public, they want to be part of this community effort. It's a huge endorsement to our work and what we're doing."

The LDS Foundation receives its funding from the church's business entities and makes contributions to community nonprofit organizations.

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