Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Launches A Food Drive 3/26-31

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will launch a food drive for the Atlanta Community Food Bank, March 26-31, 2009. The initiative is part of "Orchestras Feeding America," a large-scale, unprecedented national food drive of more than 160 Orchestras in all 50 states, sponsored by the League of American Orchestras, and inspired by the upcoming film The Soloist. The film is the story of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a gifted Juilliard-trained string player whose mental illness landed him among the homeless on the streets of Los Angeles.

The Orchestra will partner with The Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation (founded by Mr. Ayers's sister, Jennifer Ayers-Moore), and the Fulton County Department of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities,& Addictive Diseases. Arrangements have been made for concertgoers and members of the public to bring non-perishable canned and packaged food to bins located throughout the Woodruff Arts Center campus, and to clinics that provide services for Atlanta's mentally ill and libraries across Fulton County. (See below for detailed list of locations and most needed food items). The public may also donate online at http://www.acfb.org/.

During Atlanta's local food drive for the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the work of Jerome Lawrence, a mentally ill artist-in-residence at the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation, will have his work displayed at Gallery 100 in the Memorial Arts Building at the Woodruff Arts Center. His work embodies the spirit of the work that the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation would like to achieve, and encourages dialogue with mentally ill artists from all genres to learn about their stories and their work.

Organizations like the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation and the Fulton County Department of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities,& Addictive Diseaseshave identified the necessity to keep public awareness about mental health at the forefront of the nation's consciousness, and facilitate the appreciation of the contributions that artistic expression makes to the advancement of wellness and treatment. This includes cooperation with organizations that engage creativity and community, like the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and service low-income and homeless Americans, like the Atlanta Community Food Bank.


"These are challenging economic times for our community, so there couldn't be a more appropriate occasion to pay homage to our local Atlanta Community Food Bank and the critical role it plays for the people of this city every day. We are honored to partner with them in this nationwide food drive," said Atlanta Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore. "We are also grateful for a new partnership with the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation and the Fulton County Department of Mental Health, enabling us all to increase awareness of mental health issues. Together - through the power of music, understanding and giving - we can all make a meaningful difference."

"The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Food Drive in conjunction with The Soloist is a special initiative demonstrating how much it cares about the issues affecting the mentally ill, " said Jennifer Ayers-Moore, founder of the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation. "By partnering with the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation and the Fulton County Department of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Addictive Diseases, the ASO is sending a powerful message to the public that we care about the ‘Nathaniels of the world' and helping to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness."

"The Fulton County Department of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases is delighted to participate in this wonderful initiative that raises awareness about mental illness, while highlighting the outstanding accomplishments of the many talented musicians and artists who are living with behavioral health disorders," said Dr. Barbara Lattimore, Director of the Fulton County Department of MH/DD/AD. "The Fulton County Board of Commissioners remains committed to providing high-quality behavioral health services to Fulton County residents, which enables individuals to pursue their full human potential and offer important contributions to their communities. Therefore, I am excited that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is uniting with the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation, Atlanta Community Food Bank and our agency to heighten awareness of mental health. It is important to confront the stigma surrounding mental illness, and encourage individuals who need help to seek assistance."


"We are so grateful to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for hosting this food drive to address the needs of everyone in our community, including those with mental illness," said Bill Bolling, Atlanta Community Food Bank Founder and Executive Director. "At a time when our partner agencies are reporting significant increases in the number of people they are serving, some as much as double the number compared to last year, it is even more important that we work together to help all who are in need of food assistance."


Between 59% and 77% of artists, writers and musicians suffer with mental illness. Persons with mental and addictive disorders share the need for long-term support services like the Atlanta Community Food Bank and the shelters it serves. But the homeless are not the only people who need these services. One in eight Americans is at risk of hunger. According to the USDA, there are 36 million people at risk of hunger in the US, 12 million of whom are children. In December 2008, food banks reported a 30 percent increase in demand for emergencyfood assistance, compared to one year ago.


America's symphony, chamber, collegiate, and youth orchestras touch the lives of nearly 30 million people annually, in all 50 states and in virtually every community. In 2006-07 America's orchestras performed more than 37,000 concerts, of which nearly half were dedicated to engaging young people and the broader community in the musical experience. Nearly 25% of the music performed by American orchestras was written by American composers; in 2007-08 the programs ranged from beloved classics to more than 120 world premieres.


About the League of American Orchestras


The League of American Orchestras leads, encourages, supports, and serves orchestras as they assure the vitality of the musical experience, strengthen their organizations, and deepen their connections with their public and their communities. Founded in 1942, the League serves member symphony, chamber, youth, and university orchestras of all sizes, and supports a network of thousands of administrators, board members, musicians, conductors, volunteers, and business partners. Visit americanorchestras.org to learn more.


About the Atlanta Community Food Bank

Founded in 1979, the Atlanta Community Food Bank annually distributes over 20 million pounds of food and grocery products to more than 800 partner nonprofit organizations providing hunger relief in Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. In addition to food distribution, the Food Bank leads seven distinct community-building projects: Atlanta's Table, Community Gardens, Hunger 101, Hunger Walk/Run, Kids In Need, Product Rescue Center, and the Atlanta Prosperity Campaign. The Atlanta Community Food Bank is a member of Feeding America (formerly America's Second Harvest), the national network of more than 200 food banks. For more information on the Food Bank, visit www.ACFB.org.


About the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation

The Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation supports arts programs at mental health and arts organizations that serve the mentally ill, and places a special emphasis on programs that serve the artistically gifted. Jennifer Ayers-Moore and Nathaniel Ayers have launched the foundation through proceeds from the movie, The Soloist. An endowment will be set up to continue their ability to keep public awareness about mental health at the forefront of the nation's consciousness. Further, the NAAF will facilitate the appreciation of the contributions that artistic expression makes to the advancement of wellness and treatment, collaborate with mental health and arts organizations to identify and exhibit the work of the artistically gifted, and provide grants to worthy nonprofit organizations that embody the mission of the foundation.


About the Fulton County Department of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities & Addictive Diseases (MH/DD/AD)


The Fulton County Department of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities & Addictive Diseases (MH/DD/AD) provides high-quality and culturally competent behavioral health care to the citizens of Fulton County. The Department offers comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation services in a behavioral health care model that enables clients to achieve and maintain independence and stability, and to play a more productive role within their families and community. The agency also offers extensive services to adults with developmental disabilities, and provides continuous community outreach and education programs designed to help eliminate the stigma surrounding behavioral health disorders.


About the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra,now in its 64th season, is considered one of America's leading orchestras, known for the excellence of its live performances, presentations, renowned choruses, and its impressive list of Grammy Award-winning recordings. The foremost cultural organization in the southeast, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra serves as the cornerstone for artistic development and music education in the region. Under the creative partnership of President and Managing Director Allison Vulgamore, Music Director Robert Spano, and Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles since September 2001, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performs more than 200 concerts each year to a combined audience of more than a half million in a full schedule of performances, including educational and community concerts. Emerging from the partnership is the ASO's Atlanta School of Composers, the Orchestra's commitment to nurturing and championing contemporary music through multi-year partnerships with living American composers. Since the inception of the Atlanta School of Composers, the Orchestra's performances of new music have resulted in a growing excitement and interest among audiences. A recognized leader and supporter of contemporary American music, the Orchestra received the 2007 award for "Strongest Commitment to New American Music" from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. In addition, Music Director Robert Spano was named 2008 Conductor of the Year by Musical America. The Atlanta Symphony is one of the few American orchestras with a continuing association with a major record label (Telarc), and this year celebrates its 30-year relationship with the label. During that time, the Orchestra has recorded more than 100 albums and has won 26 Grammy Awards. Among the orchestra's upcoming season highlights is its return to Carnegie Hall in April 2008. In May 2008, the Atlanta Symphony opened the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park (www.vzwamp.com), making it the only U.S. orchestra to own and operate three venues simultaneously. In June 2008, the Orchestra celebrated 35 years at Chastain Park Amphitheater during the Atlanta Symphony's 2008 Delta Classic Chastain (www.classicchastain.com). The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is a founding member of the Woodruff Arts Center.

 

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