New Jersey Symphony Receives Getty Grant to Develop Autism Community Initiative

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra is one of 22 American orchestras to receive a first-year Getty Education and Community Investment Grant from the League of American Orchestras and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. The NJSO received the grant to further develop the NJSO Autism Community Initiative; the grant recognizes the Orchestra's innovation and dedication to increasing its relevance to the community.

The NJSO Autism Community Initiative provides music education and enrichment opportunities to children and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD); the Orchestra has developed a set of chamber music programs tailored to meet the needs of the autism community.

After establishing and working with an autism advisory group in the spring of 2011, the NJSO piloted its Autism Community Initiative in 2012 with the goal of serving young people with ASD. As part of the pilot, the Orchestra presented 10 chamber music programs to more than 800 youth, educators and staff at six Mercer County locations- The Newgrange School, Mercer Elementary School, Joseph F. Cappello School, Mercer High School and Eden Autism Services' Institute. The NJSO further presented a chamber music program for as many as 20 adults with autism at Eden Autism Services adult facility.

As preparation for the performances, the NJSO provided seven of its orchestra musicians with a professional development workshop-facilitated by Music specialist Jenn Haines of The Newgrange School-about tailoring chamber music programs to ASD youth.

Patricia Dowd, Director of the Irvington Public Schools' Special Services Department, said of an NJSO performance at the district's Thurgood Marshall School: "The recent performance of the NJSO for three Irvington autistic classes allowed the students to listen to a story, hear the music that increased their excitement and also interact with the musicians. Students and staff thoroughly enjoyed the performance and were able to ask many questions regarding the musicians and the instruments. This unique experience for our children has truly touched their hearts and left some of them wondering can they also play an instrument.

"Allowing one of our teachers to participate by reading the script between the musical interludes provided familiarity for the students, and at the same time the teacher was able to paraphrase some portions of the story to facilitate student understanding. [Our staff] felt it was beneficial for the students. This was an experience [the students] will long remember, and one that many may have never experienced if [the NJSO] did not make this program available."

NJSO Principal Bassoon Bob Wagner participated in the NJSO's pilot program, receiving professional-development training and performing programs for both adults and young people with autism. "Through the Autism Community Initiative, we are reaching an easily engaged and incredibly receptive audience we have not reached before. [At the pilot performances in the spring], the audience really loved that we were there, and through the program, I gained a lot of knowledge I didn't have before. We have tailored the chamber music program to meet the autism community's needs and our artistic ideals, and both the adults and the school-aged kids had an amazing interest in the performances.

"There is a pretty amazing sense of pride in how New Jersey has embraced and funded autism care and education in an unprecedented way. It is a natural fit for the NJSO to get involved. I am really pleased that the League of American Orchestras and the Getty Foundation saw the great value in the work we are trying to do."

With the support of the Getty Grant, the NJSO Autism Community Initiative will continue to grow by increasing the number of services it provides and expanding the geographic scope of the program. In FY13, the initiative will provide professional development training to additional NJSO musicians and present as many as 21 chamber ensemble programs in nine locations in Mercer and Essex Counties, serving more than 1,000 youth and adults with autism, as well as their families, educators and other support staff. Partners in Essex County will include The Children's Institute, Sawtelle Learning Center and Irvington Public School District's Department of Special Services.

"More and more orchestras all over the country are finding innovative ways to help address community needs through music," said League of American Orchestras President and CEO Jesse Rosen. "The Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation's commitment to encourage these important educational and community engagement programs is a great boost to orchestras' ability to provide community relevance beyond the concert hall."

A prerequisite for qualifying orchestras was the existence of partnerships with local cultural or community organizations, such as schools or social service providers. This year's grants, part of a new three-year, $1.5 million re-granting program from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, will fund both new and established innovative programs including long- term in-school partnerships and afterschool programs; health and wellness initiatives in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes, and programs for the underserved and underprivileged, including incarcerated youth.

A total of $425,000 was awarded for the first year grants, with individual grant amounts ranging from $14,500 to $37,500 per orchestra. 45% of the grants were awarded to educational programs, 43% to health and wellness programs, and 12% to those serving other populations.

Applicants for the grants came from every orchestra budget group. The initial 204 applicants were narrowed by an independent advisory panel to 44 semi-finalists; all were then judged on six criteria: the degree of innovation and relevance to community needs; the orchestra's capacity to deliver; appropriateness to mission and community; appropriateness and strength of partnership(s); ability to assess outcomes; and professional development for musicians and staff.

The recipients for 2012-13 are: Allentown Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, California Symphony Orchestra, The Central Ohio Symphony, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Madison Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Omaha Symphony Association, Pacific Symphony, Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Portland (Maine) Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory, Sphinx Virtuosi and St. Louis Symphony. A list detailing each grantee's program can be found at

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra is comprised of some of the country's finest musicians. The Orchestra is proud to have Jacques Lacombe as its Music Director. Artistic excellence, innovative programming and community engagement are hallmarks of its mission. To best serve the people of New Jersey, the orchestra brings its programs to seven outstanding venues throughout the state. Education and community engagement programs enrich the listening experience for children and adults alike. Select performances of the NJSO are broadcast regionally and throughout North America.

For more information about the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, visit or email Tickets are available for purchase by phone 1.800.ALLEGRO (255.3476) or on the Orchestra's website.

The League of American Orchestras leads, supports and champions America's orchestras and the vitality of the music they perform. Its diverse membership of approximately 800 orchestras across North America runs the gamut from world-renowned symphonies to community groups, from summer festivals to student and youth ensembles. The only national organization dedicated solely to the orchestral experience, the League is a nexus of knowledge and innovation, advocacy and leadership advancement for managers, musicians, volunteers and boards. Its conferences and events, award-winning Symphony magazine, website and other publications inform music lovers around the world about orchestral activity and developments. Founded in 1942 and chartered by Congress in 1962, the League links a national network of thousands of instrumentalists, conductors, managers and administrators, board members, volunteers and business partners. For more information, visit

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