The Grand Rapids Symphony is the recipient of two recent awards for community service and outreach in West Michigan.
Grand Rapids Symphony’s affiliate, Grand Rapids Symphony Friends has been awarded the Gold Book Award of Excellence from the League of American Orchestras for “Blandford Enchanted,” an event that transformed Blandford Nature Center into a Fairy Garden.
It was the second consecutive Gold Book Award for Grand Rapids Symphony Friends, which formerly was known as the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Women’s Committee.
In May, the orchestra was honored at Arbor Circle’s Annual Spring Dinner for its Symphony Scorecard Program, which provides free tickets to area residents who receive financial assistance from the state of Michigan or to members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
“Blandford Enchanted,” held last summer June 2017, was honored earlier this month in Chicago at the annual national convention of the League of American Orchestras.
"It was a honor for Grand Rapids Symphony Friends to be chosen for a second year in a row for a Gold Book Award of Excellence," said Bonnie Monhart, president of Grand Rapids Symphony Friends. "Each year the League Volunteer Council recognizes outstanding fundraising and community engagement events, as well as sharing effective ways to focus on issues facing volunteer organizations of orchestras across the country."
Fairy Gardens are small, but “Blandford Enchanted” took over the buildings and grounds of Blandford Nature Center at 1715 Hillburn Ave. NW. Some 35 meticulously crafted Fairy Houses were displayed display in Blandford Nature Center’s Mary Jane Dockeray Welcome Center. Plenty more was on display outside on the grounds of the 143-acre nature preserve.
In addition to the miniature dwellings created by local artists and designers, live performances by Symphony musicians, a world premier ballet performed by the Grand Rapids Ballet, storytelling, and an evening Lantern Walk all were part of the event attended by over 1,300 in June 2017, raising almost $14,000.
"The audience was delighted with our Blandford Enchanted Fairy Garden event," said Monhart, who presented before the Volunteer Council at the convention in June in Chicago.
Last year, Symphony Friends was honored with the Gold Book Award for its Rumsey Street Bazaar, a three-day bazaar dubbed “Classics Remixed,” held in the mostly Hispanic neighborhood southwest of downtown Grand Rapids.
The League of American Orchestra’s Gold Book Award recognizes outstanding projects created and implemented by symphony orchestra volunteer associations throughout the United States and Canada. Projects are judged by the Volunteer Council, an organization of community leaders who have demonstrated outstanding support for their symphony orchestras. The Council’s awards honor volunteers who help to insure the success of their organizations.
"Personally, presenting and participating in the Volunteer Council at the League of American Orchestras Convention the past two years was an opportunity to interface with a number of nation-wide symphony volunteer organizations," Monhart said. "I walked away with new ideas for fundraising events as well as tips on managing them. Our very successful Kitchen Tour event this past spring was a spin-off from several other symphony volunteer organization's fundraisers."
Arbor Circle, a Grand Rapids-based community service organization, assists more than 20,000 people per year to overcome life’s unexpected challenges through more than 50 programs in counseling, education and prevention addressing mental health, substance use and family concerns.
Grand Rapids Symphony Friends, formerly known as the Grand Rapids Symphony Women’s Committee, has a long history of supporting the growth of the Grand Rapids Symphony and furthering appreciation and understanding of music. Founded in 1941, the group played a critical role in the orchestra’s growth during the World War II era. Today, the committee organizes projects and fundraisers including its Encore cookbook celebrating Grand Rapids culinary and culture.
In 2017, Symphony Friends activities contributed $30,000 to the Grand Rapids Symphony.