Few speak of Annapolis' cultural life with greater authority than Anna Greenberg.

A self-described "professional volunteer" who has twice served as president of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra's Board of Trustees and continues to be active on other local advisory boards, Greenberg is passionate about her city's history of strong and independent support for the performing and fine arts.

"Annapolis has always felt the need to have an authentic arts community of its own," she says. "We never sat back and depended on Baltimore and Washington, because the people of culture who've settled here, for the most part, haven't been from Baltimore and Washington.

"They've come from places like New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania," she adds, "and one of the things that drew them here in the first place was the culture available on our two wonderful college campuses and in the larger community. They wanted it, they got it, and they supported it."

Culture in and around Annapolis took a leap forward a couple of decades ago when the old Annapolis High School at 801 Chase St. was refurbished into about Maryland Hall offerings: 410-263-5544).

Lightning struck twice in Anne Arundel County with the opening of the Chesapeake Arts Center, another recycled school, at 194 Hammonds Lane in Brooklyn Park.

A musical version of Dracula in the complex's Studio Theatre, big-band jazz on the Main Stage and interactive an "whodunit" in the Main Stage Gallery were among the recent offerings. (Information about Chesapeake Arts Center programs: 410-636-6597).

In recent years, arts organizations nationwide have suffered trying times as traumatic events and the slumping economy diminished audience support and the volume of corporate donations flowing into the coffers of orchestras, opera houses, museums, ballet companies and choral ensembles.

The local arts community has not been immune from these forces, says Pamela Godfrey, general manager of the Annapolis Chorale.

"I think we're all being very careful," she says, "trimming here and there, doing more with less, maybe giving one concert instead of two. Still, most of us seem to be holding our own so far."

Among the organizations that continue to flourish in the county arts scene:

Annapolis Symphony Orchestra

Born four decades ago as an amateur community orchestra, the ensemble today is largely a professional group comprised of gifted area free-lancers and members of the various military orchestras and bands that dot the region.

How good are these players? The principal trumpet of a couple years back is now with the Chicago Symphony. The ASO's current principal flutist, Kim Valerio, will be returning to Annapolis this year after spending a season with the world-class St. Louis Symphony.

2003 has been a year of dispute for the ASO, whose board of trustees voted in November not to renew the contract of conductor Leslie B. Dunner after the charismatic African-American maestro's commendable five-year tenure on the Maryland Hall podium.

Terminating the employment of the popular leader who had heightened the orchestra's artistic and public profile while earning favorable reviews for his buoyant brand of music-making unleashed a storm of criticism in the community that divided and unnerved many orchestra supporters.

In the end, the board stuck to its guns. Dunner is gone, so the coming two seasons promise to be a time of transition for the orchestra.

Subscription concerts in 2003-2004 will be handled by five visitors (three of them with past or present ties to the Baltimore Symphony), who may or may not wind up vying to become conductor of the local orchestra.

The 2004-2005 season will be given over to the ASO's formal conductor search, with Dunner's successor being named in time to take control of the orchestra's fortunes in fall 2005.