Recognized as one of America’s leading regional orchestras, the Grand Rapids Symphony celebrates its 84th anniversary this season, a tribute to an enduring partnership with the West Michigan community that has embraced it since the orchestra’s founding in 1930.
Following the Symphony’s debut to a full house at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in 2005, The New York Times wrote, “The orchestra is what it ought to be and gives a glimmer of hope for all of us in the music world.” The orchestra made headlines again when, in 2007, it was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Classical Crossover Album” for a DVD and CD Invention & Alchemy, featuring “Hip Harpist” Deborah Henson-Conant.
The Grand Rapids Symphony presents more than 400 performances each year, touching the lives of some 170,000. Nearly half of those who benefit are students, senior citizens, and people with disabilities reached through extensive education and community service programs.
Ten concert series are presented with performances designed to capture the imagination of young children and adults alike, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. These series include the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series, Fox Motors Pops Series, SymphonicBoom, Crowe Horwath MusicNOW, Crowe Horwath Great Eras, Porter Hills Coffee Classics, Sacred Dimensions, PNC Lollipop Concerts, DTE Energy Foundation Family Series and the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops.
The Symphony’s 12th CD recording was released internationally in 2010 on the Nimbus Alliance label. The CD features three works by Philip Sawyers: his Symphony No. 1, a concert overture entitled The Gale of Life and a piece called Symphonic Music for Strings and Brass. In May 2008, the orchestra recorded an orchestral tribute to President Gerald R. Ford titled One of Us, Portrait of a Humble Healer. A recording featuring Adolphus Hailstork’s Second and Third symphonies was released internationally on the Naxos label in 2007.
As part of its diversity initiatives, the Symphony presents the annual “Symphony with Soul” community collaboration. The concert features the Grand Rapids Community Chorus and connects cultures through the shared language of music. Concert proceeds help support the “Mosaic Scholarship Fund,” created in 2005 through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Scholarships are awarded annually to African-American and Hispanic students, providing instrumental training and mentorship by Symphony musicians.
The Grand Rapids Symphony has a long history of commitment to youth education and music participation. This season marks the 53rd anniversary of the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra. In 2008, the organization established the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses presented by Legacy Trust. For more than 25 years, musician ensembles have performed in West Michigan schools; this year the Artist-In-Residence program partnered with 44 schools, reaching into 15 counties and touching the lives of more than 17,000 kindergarten through sixth-graders. Fifth-Grade concerts have been presented since 1944, and annually they provide a live symphonic concert experience for more than 15,000 fifth-graders.
The Symphony also sponsors the 140-member Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, which celebrates its 51st season this year, and provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. The orchestra is heard throughout West Michigan through broadcasts on NPR affiliate WBLV/WBLU.