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Grand Rapids Symphony receives $1.1M diversity grant

June 14, 2018
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Grand Rapids Symphony Mosaic Scholars students
A group of Mosaic Scholars practice together. Courtesy Grand Rapids Symphony

The Grand Rapids Symphony has been awarded a $1.1-million grant from a local foundation to create diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

The symphony said this week The Wege Foundation in Grand Rapids awarded the grant to engage the community and share live orchestral music with everyone, including those who have never listened to orchestral music.

“The Wege Foundation is pleased to support the symphony in enhancing the diversity of its programming, musicians and staff, as well as the inclusivity of its outreach,” said Mark Van Putten, president, The Wege Foundation. “By transforming itself, the symphony can help transform West Michigan in enduring ways that reach beyond the performing arts.”

The grant, which is spread over four years, is expected to create community engagement positions for staff to develop, manage and coordinate all Grand Rapids Symphony activities to establish a larger and broader audience.

The grant will also help to create two-year music fellowship, where a musician fellow will perform with the Grand Rapids Symphony, be mentored by symphony musicians and gain practical experience toward launching their musical career.

The funds will help to grow the symphony’s Mosaic Scholarship program, a mentoring program for African-American and Latino music students, created with funding by the Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation. 

The symphony will create a new program, Mosaic Music Majors, which will collaborate with music students of color at local colleges to help them develop the skills they need to start their careers. 

Students ages 13 to 18 will also be provided with musical instruments and private lessons with symphony musicians and an opportunity to perform and attend concerts.

“In the past, a symphony orchestra’s goal was to perform great works of classical music,” said Peter Perez, president, Grand Rapids Symphony. “Today, the Grand Rapids Symphony aspires not just to play music for the community, but to make music together with its community. Truly serving our entire community means we have to genuinely and faithfully be a reflection of everyone in the community.”

The use of the funds will be seen immediately as the symphony will be hosting free community outdoor concerts in John Ball Park.

Planning is underway to develop a series of neighborhood events that will merge into a centralized major event.

John Varineau, associate conductor at the symphony, will lead a program of classical music featuring special guests on July 21 at 7 p.m. on the city's West Side, adjacent John Ball Zoo.

“It’s going to change the way we ‘do business’ and the way we approach all of our already-outstanding artistic products,” Varineau said.

“In just a few short years, how and what we present will be even more representative of the entire Grand Rapids community, so that everyone will be able to truthfully call us ‘our Grand Rapids Symphony.’”

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