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Meet Bob Boell, one of our beloved and longtime volunteers

Posted by:  Ruth Rovner on April 24, 2019

Article reposted with permission from Delco Daily Times.

Media's Boell went from pulpit to serving the public at Kimmel Center

By DelCo Daily Times' Ruth Rovner

Photos by Morgan Horell, Kimmel Center

Every Friday afternoon at the Kimmel Center, visitors who stop at the information desk in the lobby find Bob Boell standing behind the desk, ready and eager to answer questions or to offer visitors one of the many brochures about current and future performing arts events

Fridays are especially busy because usually the Philadelphia Orchestra presents a matinee concert at 2 p.m. Many visitors stop by the desk before or after the concert.

“The fascinating thing to me about working Fridays is that huge crowds come to a daytime concert,” said Boell, the Media resident. “The Philadelphia Orchestra is a big draw.”

Questions from visitors cover the gamut, from queries about coming events, the architecture, or the location of the restrooms.

“Some ask, ‘What do you offer for children?” said Boell. “The Kimmel Center is making an effort to reach out to families with children.”

There’s the Sound All Around concert series for very young audiences, and the Family Concerts for older youngsters.

Boell rarely encounters a question he can’t answer, but visitors might be surprised to learn that this knowledgeable volunteer is a retired minister.,

He served for almost 21 years at Aston Presbyterian Church and then 19 years at First Presbyterian Church in Corning, New York. Then, when he retired, the West Chester native returned to home turf and settled in Media.

Because he was still in Corning when the Kimmel Center opened Dec. 16, 2001, he was curious and eager to see it after he retired. He did not foresee what that one visit would lead to.

“I I talked to a couple of volunteers at the information desk, and one thing led to another,” he said. “They sensed I might be good at this, and suggested I contact the volunteer coordinator. I went home and thought about it, and not long after, I did contact the coordinator. “

That was 13 years ago. He’s been faithfully coming to the Kimmel Center Fridays ever since.

He knows the exact schedule of events because on Friday mornings, he’s behind the scenes as part of a “calendar review team.” From that meeting, he compiles all the information that’s relevant to the volunteers at the information desk not only on Fridays but for the entire week. He also creates a list of daily events for each day.

He enjoys the combination of working behind the scenes and then meeting the public. He has, in effect, a double shift which extends from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Over the years, he’s become highly knowledgeable about all aspects of the Kimmel Center. It includes eight resident companies presenting orchestral concerts, dance programs, jazz concerts, opera, touring Broadway musicals, and special “Kimmel Center Presents” events.

The resident companies include the Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Philly Pops, the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadanco and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. .

Upcoming programs, besides Philadelphia Orchestra concerts, include Opera Philadelphia’s production of “La Boheme” with five performances from April 26-May 5, a Philly Pops concert titled “American Bandstand” on May 3-5, and a Pennsylvania Ballet program of three pieces, including a world premiere, May 9 to 12.

Besides the Broad and Spruce headquarters, the Kimmel Center “campus”, as it’s called, includes two nearby buildings, the Academy of Music and the Merriam Theater.

This prestigious performing arts center attracts visitors from near and far. “We’ve had visitors from almost every continent,” said Boell. “The Philadelphia Orchestra is a big draw and people come from all over to hear them. Some take the train from New York or Washington just to hear the orchestra that day.”

Closer to home, he’s met many visitors from Delco.

“Many take the Media-Elwyn line,,” he said. “And they come to the information desk to ask, ’What time does the concert end? I have a train to catch.' ”

Besides his Fridays at the Kimmel Center, the retired minister has one other volunteer activity, and this one is more closely related to his former life. He sings in the choir of Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Chester.

“I couldn’t do that until I retired,” he said. “And now I really enjoy it.”

That’s certainly also true of his 13 years as a Kimmel Center volunteer.“I take pleasure in interacting with visitors and helping them to have an enjoyable experience,” Boell said. “It’s a thrill to be part of this performing arts culture center with the great breadth of opportunities it offers.”

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