The sights and sounds of a symphony orchestra that are most familiar and most recognizable are the musicians on stage and the music they make.
Darwin McMurray, a junior at Grand Valley State University, who recently completed 25 hours of volunteer service with the Grand Rapids Symphony, discovered there’s a lot more happing out of sight and behind the scenes.
“It’s a great organization,” said McMurray. “The things it’s doing with the community are often overlooked.”
The Muskegon native, a saxophonist, is studying for a Bachelor of Music degree. Years ago, McMurray’s older brother took up trumpet in school and had a lot of fun making music. When McMurray reached middle school, he was ready to jump in, too.
“As soon as I got there, I went to the office asked to join the band,” he recalled.
Along the way, he developed an interest in arts advocacy to help give other opportunities to experience arts and culture.
“Sometimes the arts can be pushed back,” he said. “But it’s important to get that experience in arts and culture.”
So at GVSU he’s also a double major in Public Non-Profit Administration, which led him to volunteer with the Grand Rapids Symphony.
McMurray spent weeks as a volunteer, engaged in tasks including passing out promotional materials, mailing tickets, and helping with merchandise sales at concerts. He wrapped candy canes for holiday treats and passed them out during the Art Van Santa Parade, presented by the Grand Rapids Jaycees.
“I’ve told my friends, the Grand Rapids Symphony is a great organization to get involved with,” he said.
McMurray collaborated with the office staff on a special project for students at Grand Valley State University.
Time spent with the Grand Rapids Symphony has given him a taste of programs such as the Grand Rapids Symphony Third Grade and Fifth Grade Concerts, Student Passports offering discounts for students to attend concerts for as little as $5, and the range of diverse music the orchestra plays at shows including its upcoming Symphony with Soul featuring three-time Grammy Award-winning singer Lalah Hathaway as special guest on Feb. 18.
“It takes a lot of different hands, and they’re all not musicians,” he said.
McMurray spent the Christmas season with the Symphony, volunteering with different holiday projects and helping to promote upcoming concerts. He also worked in the office to get the feel of the administrative side of managing volunteers under Grand Rapids Symphony Senior Manager of Volunteer Services Nancy Hopkins.
“She was, right off the bat, so welcoming and hospitable,” McMurray said. “She’s so kind with people.”
McMurray plans to return to volunteer with the Grand Rapids Symphony for its upcoming Symphony with Soul next week.
McMurray, who previously played with the West Shore Youth Symphony, aspires someday to become a teacher of saxophone on the collegiate level.
“But not right away,” he said with a laugh.