Grand Rapids Symphony Receives NEA Grant to Support Music Workshops with Public School Students

Thu, 12/06/2012

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Rocco Landesman has announced that the Grand Rapids Symphony is one of 153 not-for-profit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Challenge America Fast-Track grant. The Grand Rapids Symphony is recommended for a $10,000 grant to support its annual presentation of the “Symphony with Soul” concert, as well as collaborative workshops involving Grand Rapids Symphony musicians and local public school students.

As part of its community engagement initiatives, the Grand Rapids Symphony presents its “Symphony with Soul” collaboration. The annual concert, now in its 11th year, features the Grand Rapids Symphony Community Chorus and seeks to bridge 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 mentoring by Symphony musicians.

The 2013 “Symphony with Soul”concert will be performed on February 16, led by guest conductor Michael Morgan, and featuring pastor and gospel singer Dr. Marvin Sapp. Project activities will include a series of community workshops in which participants will gather and creatively explore and express their stories, ideas, and emotions through music. The workshops will culminate with an original collaborative performance piece, which will be presented during the “Symphony with Soul” concert. Workshop participants will include local public school students, most with no formal musical training, Grand Rapids Symphony Mosaic Scholars, orchestra musicians, and facilitators. Together they will create a new musical composition discerning their collective voice and borne from individual experience.

“Part of the Symphony’s mission through the ‘Symphony with Soul’ concert is to provide opportunities for people to perform at DeVos Performance Hall,” said Music Director David Lockington. “This can be transformative. It’s about access: to expression and performance experience. The best part about it is that the students drive the content and style.”

In this FY 2013 funding round, the NEA received 393 eligible Challenge America Fast- Track applications, requesting a total of $3,930,000. The NEA will award 153 Challenge America Fast-Track grants totaling $1.53 million awarded to organizations in 41 states, Washington, DC, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These include 49 first-time Arts Endowment grantees. The Challenge America Fast-Track category offers support primarily to small and mid- sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.

“Community engagement and serving our increasingly diverse community continue to be priorities of the Grand Rapids Symphony,” said Symphony President and CEO Peter Kjome. “The 2013 “Symphony with Soul” collaboration encourages participation by those who have traditionally faced barriers to access to the arts and represents a blending of musical cultures. We are pleased and gratified to receive the Challenge America Fast-Track grant from the NEA in support of this special program."

“The NEA was founded on the principle that the arts belong to all the people of the United States," said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. "We're proud that Challenge America Fast-Track grants bring more opportunities for arts engagement to underserved communities."

See the complete listing of projects recommended for Challenge America Fast-Track grant support at

About the Grand Rapids Symphony
The Grammy-nominated Grand Rapids Symphony was officially organized in 1930 and is recognized as one of America’s leading orchestras. Led by Music Director David Lockington, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are presented 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. The Symphony sponsors the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses, and also provides the orchestra for Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit