The Grand Rapids Symphony's mission is to share great music that moves the human soul, and strives to remove barriers that prevent some from experiencing touching musical moments. This season, the GRS launched the Symphony Scorecard program with the generous support of the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation. Symphony Scorecard provides any member of our community who is receiving financial assistance from the State of Michigan with up to four free tickets to select GRS concerts. Active, Guard and Reserve military households can also participate in this program. Since its launch in Fall 2015, Symphony Scorecard has enriched lives and created special memories for people of all corners of our community.
Artie Smith, 82, is one such community member. A lifelong lover of all music, Artie recently attended a symphony concert for the first time in 50 years through the Symphony Scorecard program. When she first found out that Grand Rapids Symphony tickets were available through Ransom Tower's senior living program, she broke down and cried.
"My prayers had been answered. Now I can go to the symphony and sit with the audience. This is something I thought would never happen," she said.
Growing up, Artie's mother was very influential in cultivating her deep love for music. "My mom was always the kind of person who wanted something better for her kids than she had," said Artie. She has fond memories of quietly listening to the Grand Ole Opry radio broadcast with her family on Saturday nights, only laughing when something humorous came on the program.
Her family lived on 18th St. in St. Louis, Missouri, and they would always pass the Kiel Auditorium on the way home from school. The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra would often perform there. One day, Artie's mother asked her and her sister if they would like to stop and listen to the beautiful music. "Of course, I bustled right in there," said Artie with a chuckle.
However, a man working at the auditorium told her that they weren't allowed inside to sit with the audience. After she told him that she wanted to listen to the music with her mom and sister, he brought out some chairs and they were able to listen outside the back door. Eventually, he let them sit on the inside of the door where they could both see and hear the performances. "We would sit for hours and listen to the music," said Artie. "The music was so beautiful that a lot of times I cried." After the performances, they would sit at home and talk about the music they had heard.
After a while, Artie's sister wasn't interested in going to the auditorium. "She said, 'we're never going to be able to sit in the audience like everybody else. I'm tired of sitting at the back door.'" said Artie.
So, Artie began sneaking off by herself to listen and even got into trouble for doing so. This is part of the reason for her love of classical music--because it brings her to a place where she ordinarily couldn't go. When people asked her why she likes classical music, Artie would reply, "when you learn to listen to it the way I did, you would like it, too."
This past December, Artie took her youngest daughter, who had never been to the symphony, and her pastor to the Holiday Pops concert. Through the Symphony Scorecard program, Artie hopes to share her love and enjoyment of music with many others, including her 14 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren.
"I just love coming to the symphony," said Artie. "I want to the thank the Grand Rapids Symphony for giving me my dream where I can come anytime that I want to and share it with others."