Giving to The Soraya’s Ambassadors Endowment Supports Future of the Arts

Thor Steingraber stands on the balcony of CSUN's Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts.

Thor Steingraber, executive director of the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Luis Luque.

When concert halls and performance spaces are able to safely reopen, Southern Californians and people all over the world will need the arts more than ever. After more than a year battling the public health crisis of COVID-19 and coping with political upheaval and nationwide reckonings for racial justice, the arts can serve as healing tools to bring the community back together and build for the future.

With this in mind, Thor Steingraber made a planned gift to help support the future of the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts at CSUN for years and decades to come. Steingraber, who has served as executive director of The Soraya since 2014, has firmly established the institution as the San Fernando Valley’s cultural heart — a beacon for world-class dance, classical, jazz and countless artists from around the globe.

His planned gift includes a baseline amount that is fixed, and then a variable amount above that, depending on the value of his estate in the future. It is directed to the Ambassadors Endowment at The Soraya, a fund established in 2019 to support ongoing programming and the long-term financial health of the center.

“In terms of impact, because The Soraya is still quite young in its philanthropic history, these gifts are transformational because they seed a movement amongst other members of the community,” Steingraber said. “What I’m interested in doing is motivating further participation and engagement with these kinds of gifts. Many patrons ask me about planned gifts, and I can now attest that it’s easy to do at CSUN, and to customize the gift to meet your individual needs.”

On Jan. 29, The Soraya celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a special virtual celebration that included performances by Soraya favorites such as Broadway stars Lea Salonga and Mandy Gonzalez and jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center. Dignitaries such as CSUN President Erika D. Beck and new U.S. Senator Alex Padilla paid tribute to the center and its impact over its first 10 years.

In its first decade, The Soraya has attracted international acts that connect with the diverse communities in Los Angeles, including mariachi bands, orchestras from around the world and international dance troupes. It has become a place where artists and musical ensembles can create and present original work that might not otherwise find a home.

Like all other Southern California arts venues, the center was forced to go dark in March 2020 as the community coped with the coronavirus and struggled to flatten the curve. As patrons and fans consider what they’ve missed and make plans to return, Steingraber said, he hopes that they, too, will throw their financial support behind The Soraya and the arts.

“This is the moment for us to stand up and say, ‘We need these resources more than ever,’” Steingraber said, noting that money unspent on tickets and subscriptions this past year could be redirected philanthropically. “Let’s all pause long enough to make sure that the organizations that are important to us are receiving the support they need.”

“When campus leaders make a legacy gift like this, it is a powerful gesture that exemplifies the dedication faculty, staff and administrators have for the mission of CSUN and their area of leadership and work,” said Robert Gunsalus, vice president for University Relations and Advancement and president of the CSUN Foundation. “With this planned gift, Thor has made a clear statement that he wants to see a lasting benefit for many years to come — and has set a compelling example for others who care deeply about the university and the impact The Soraya brings to our region and the world.”

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