League of American Orchestras Awards the Grand Rapids Symphony $25,000 Grant

League of American Orchestras Awards the Grand Rapids Symphony $25,000 Grant

The League of American Orchestras has awarded the Grand Rapids Symphony a $25,000 grant to enhance initiatives in diversity, equity and inclusion to engage a broader audience and share live orchestral music with its entire community.

Grand Rapids Symphony is one of 23 orchestras participating in the new program to develop best practices and strengthen organizational culture to better serve its entire community. Participating orchestras include the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

The one-year grants are the first round of The Catalyst Fund, the League's new three-year, $2.1 million grant-making program made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

"There is a growing will among orchestras to make their organizations more inclusive, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's leadership, vision, and financial support is helping to drive these efforts," said Jesse Rosen, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras.

Thanks to the League of American Orchestras, the Grand Rapids Symphony will use the Catalyst Fund grant to expand opportunities for more people to engage with orchestral music.

"In the past, a symphony orchestra's goal was to play great music, with the highest artistic standards, in a performance hall," said Grand Rapids Symphony President Mary Tuuk. "Today, the Grand Rapids Symphony aspires to bring music to its community in all kinds of settings."

"Truly serving our entire community means creating an environment of innovation and inclusion in everything we do," Tuuk said.

The Catalyst Fund grant was launched to help orchestras engage DEI practitioners who will help implement a range of organizational development activities such as delivering cultural competency and anti-racism training for orchestra stakeholders focusing on topics such as implicit bias, labeling, stereotyping and micro-aggressions.

The grant program also is meant to help orchestras improve internal practices such as coaching, mentoring, and recruitment procedures and to create formal DEI strategic plans and baseline audits, including written assessments, benchmarks, and key progress indicators.

Orchestra representatives will be organized into a Catalyst Fund Learning Cohort involving a series of in-person and virtual convenings that will enable recipients to share ideas, perspectives, and challenges.

One year ago, the Grand Rapids Symphony received a $1 million grant from the Wege Foundation to weave diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives into all of its activities to create a 21st century orchestra that's accessible to a 21st century audience made up, not only of classical music lovers, but of its entire community.

"A symphony orchestra in the 21st century has become a service organization," said Music Director Marcelo Lehninger. "We take that as our mission when we bring great music to the community."

With support provided by the four-year Wege grant, the Grand Rapids Symphony is in the process of developing new educational opportunities as part of its Gateway to Music, a matrix of 18 education and access programs that already reach 87,000 children, students and adults across 13 counties in West Michigan.

New initiatives include its new Neighborhood Concert Series that began in July 2018 with Symphony on the West Side, a free, outdoor concert in John Ball Park. The series continued in November with La Sinfonia Navideña, a holiday concert held last December in nearby Wyoming.

Past successes in collaborating with community partners include the Grand Rapids Symphony's annual Access to Music concerts. Since 1983, the orchestra has offered the free concert to members of the community who aren't able to attend concerts in other venues due to mobility issues, physical limitations or related concerns.

In 2002, the Grand Rapids Symphony launched its annual Symphony with Soul concert and Celebration of Soul dinner and awards ceremony to build bridges and foster connections between the orchestra and West Michigan's African-American community.

Grand Rapids Symphony's Mosaic Scholarship program provides opportunities for talented African-American and Latinx students to take private music lessons with a professional musician of the Grand Rapids Symphony. The program provides musical instruments, supplies, performance opportunities, and tickets to Grand Rapids Symphony concerts.

Nearly four years ago, the Grand Rapids Symphony launched Symphony Scorecard to open its concert hall doors to a wider audience by providing free tickets to those with financial challenges or economic barriers. Since 2015, the program launched with funding from the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation has supplied more than 12,000 free tickets to members of the community who receive financial assistance from the state or to the families of men and women serving in the U.S. Military on active, reserve or guard duty.

The Grand Rapids Symphony's Free for Kids program provides up to two free tickets for students ages 7 to 18 when accompanied by an adult who purchases a ticket.

The Catalyst Fund is a three-year pilot program of annual grants to adult and youth orchestras that aims to advance their understanding of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and to foster effective EDI practices. The Catalyst Fund is supported by a three-year, $2.1 million grant to the League from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Orchestras are required to use the funds to support the costs of retaining a skilled EDI practitioner to advance EDI learning objectives. Grantees will be linked into a learning community that serves as a platform to share their learning, including a dedicated online forum as well as remote and in-person convenings, made possible by the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation.

League member orchestras were eligible to apply for Catalyst Fund grants; applications were reviewed by an independent panel of experts.

The League of American Orchestras leads, supports, and champions America's orchestras and the vitality of the music they perform. Its diverse membership of more than 2,000 organizations and individuals across North America runs the gamut from world-renowned orchestras to community groups, from summer festivals to student and youth ensembles, from conservatories to libraries, from businesses serving orchestras to individuals who love symphonic music. The only national organization dedicated solely to the orchestral experience, the League is a nexus of knowledge and innovation, advocacy, and leadership advancement. Its conferences and events, award-winning Symphony magazine, website, and other publications inform people 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. Visit americanorchestras.org.

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series in a wide range of musical and performance styles plus educational and community outreach programs combine to offer more than 400 performances per year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens or people with disabilities. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus as well as the biennial the Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which returns in 2021. GRS collaborates annually with Opera Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Ballet and semiannually with the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo.


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