Arts & Entertainment and Government

Grand Rapids Symphony wins federal grant

December 30, 2016
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Grand Rapids Symphony 2016 Symphony with Soul concert
Duane Davis conducts the Grand Rapids Symphony during the 2016 "Symphony with Soul" concert. Courtesy Grand Rapids Symphony/Terry Johnston

A federal agency has awarded a grant to the Grand Rapids Symphony to support access to the arts for a broader audience.

The National Endowment for the Arts, or NEA, announced this month it awarded $10,000 via its biennial Challenge America program to the symphony to fund its 2017 “Symphony with Soul” concert.

The annual concert and accompanying “Celebration of Soul” gala on Feb. 18 at DeVos Performance Hall raises money for the Mosaic Scholarship Fund, which provides young African-American and Latino musicians with musical instrument training and mentoring from the professional musicians of the Grand Rapids Symphony.

The concert event, established in 2002, has featured musicians such as Vanessa Williams, Marvin Sapp and Dee Dee Bridgewater. This year, the event welcomes Grammy Award-winning singer Lalah Hathaway.

The symphony launched "Symphony with Soul" to "welcome a broader audience into our community concert hall, as participating performers as well as patrons,” said Roger Nelson, VP and COO, Grand Rapids Symphony.

“Fifteen years later, people who had never set foot in a concert hall or heard an orchestra perform live have now become a permanent part of the Grand Rapids Symphony family and enjoy the wonder and joy of music that was meant for everyone,” Nelson said.

The NEA awarded this month more than $30 million to nonprofit arts organizations in 48 states for 2017.

It doled out 21 grants totaling $445,000 in Michigan.

Challenge America program

The NEA's biennial Challenge America grant program supports projects that extend the reach of the arts to under-served groups with limited opportunities due to economics, disability, ethnicity or geography.

Grand Rapids Symphony

The Grand Rapids Symphony, established in 1930, has a 40-week season and employs 80 full- and part-time musicians. With an annual budget of more than $9 million, the orchestra reaches 200,000 patrons per year.

Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses.

The Grand Rapids Symphony provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet and sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which returns in March 2017.

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