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Women's Lifestyle Magazine

GR Symphony Awarded $25,000 Grant to Promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

May 23, 2019 12:28PM ● By WLMagazine

PRESS RELEASE — 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 86,000 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 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 fully-funded 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.