Grand Rapids Symphony Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant

Media Contact:
Samara Napolitan
Grand Rapids Symphony
616.454.9451 x 4

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced yesterday that the Grand Rapids Symphony is one of 163 not-for-profit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Challenge America grant.  The Grand Rapids Symphony is recommended for a $10,000 grant to support its annual presentation of the “Symphony with Soul” concert, as well as collaborative workshops involving GRS musicians and local students. 

As part of its community engagement and inclusion initiatives, the Grand Rapids Symphony presents the annual “Symphony with Soul” community collaboration.  The “Symphony with Soul” concert features the Grand Rapids Symphony Community Chorus and seeks to bridge cultures through the shared language of music.  Concert proceeds help support the Symphony’s Mosaic Scholarship Fund, which provides African-American and Hispanic instrumental students with private instruction and mentoring by Symphony musicians.  The Mosaic Scholarship program is made possible, in part, by funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Wege Foundation.

The “Symphony with Soul” concert event will be performed on February 28, 2015, led by David Lockington in his 16th and final season as the GRS Music Director, and featuring the multi-talented performer Vanessa Williams.  Project activities will include a series of community workshops in which participants will gather and creatively explore and express their stories, ideas and emotions through music.  The workshops will culminate in an original collaborative performance piece, which will be presented during the Symphony with Soul concert.  Workshop participants will include GRS Mosaic Scholars, orchestra musicians and facilitators.  Together they will create a new musical composition discerning their collective voice and borne from individual experience.

"Part of the Symphony’s mission through the ‘Symphony with Soul’ concert is to provide opportunities for access: to expression and performance experience.  The best part about it is that the students drive the content and style,” said Music Director David Lockington.  “This can be transformative.”

The Challenge America category supports projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations whose opportunities to experience arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.  The NEA received 347 eligible Challenge America applications and will award 163 grants for a total of $1.63 million.

“Serving our increasingly diverse community continues to be a priority of the Grand Rapids Symphony,” said Peter Kjome, the orchestra’s President and CEO.  “We are pleased and gratified to receive the Challenge America grant from the NEA in support of this special community collaboration.”

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Challenge America support, please visit the NEA website at  Follow the conversation about this and other NEA-funded projects on Twitter at #NEAFall2014.

About Symphony with Soul

For 13 years, the GRS has presented an annual “Symphony with Soul” concert.  Programming and concert design are artistic collaborations between the Symphony and other musicians committed to diversity, inclusion, as well as access to music and the arts.  Based in strategic intent and artistic partnerships, the 2015 “Symphony with Soul” concert is being planned, directed and conducted by artists that share the Symphony’s intention to serve a broad and diverse audience.  Ticket information is available through the GRS Ticket Office at 616.454.9451 x 4 (Day), 616.885.1241 (Eve) or online at

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

The Grand Rapids Symphony was officially organized in 1930 and is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Director David Lockington, ten concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are presented each year, touching the lives of some 170,000. Nearly half of those who benefit are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities reached through extensive education and community service programs. The Symphony’s Affiliated Organizations include the Grand Rapids Bach Festival, Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. The Symphony also provides the orchestra for Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony please