Grand Rapids Symphony reaches $40 million endowment campaign goal to sustain programs for future

Media Contact:
Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
Grand Rapids Symphony
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GRAND RAPIDS, MI., April 15, 2016 – The Grand Rapids Symphony has reached its $40 million campaign goal to grow an endowment that helps secure the orchestra’s financial well-being for years to come.

The Legacy of Excellence Campaign, launched in 2012 with a $20 million commitment designated to endowment from philanthropists Richard and Helen DeVos, has garnered an additional $20 million in pledges and future promises to sustain the orchestra’s programs and educational offerings for the next generation.

“The Grand Rapids Symphony is one of the cultural gems that makes West Michigan a wonderful place to live,” said Dottie Johnson, co-chair of the Legacy of Excellence Campaign Cabinet and a member of the Executive Committee of the orchestra’s Board of Directors. “Symphony friends have responded enthusiastically to the campaign, which is a major milestone in our ongoing work to attract and retain exceptional musicians while keeping our orchestra's concerts and educational programs affordable.”

Cash in hand plus ongoing pledges and anticipated gifts through estate plans from more than 150 individuals, couples, corporations and foundations all combined to reach the campaign’s $40 million milestone.

When fully funded, revenue from investments from the Legacy of Excellence Campaign is expected to contribute about $2 million per year to the orchestra that today serves 200,000 people from 14 West Michigan counties each year.

“We appreciate the generous help of many people who care so much about our Symphony. Many of the generous commitments that have been made to the campaign will be fulfilled over time,” said Larry Robson, co-chair of the Legacy campaign cabinet and Vice Chairperson of the GRS Board of Directors. “Although some of the total raised will be received in the future, the campaign helps give all of us the confidence that our community will continue to be home to a wonderful orchestra.”

Income from the $20 million designated to endowment from Richard and Helen DeVos continues more than four decades of their support for the Grand Rapids Symphony, preserving a portion of the generous annual funding that the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation has contributed to the orchestra for many years.

"Helen’s love of music drew us into the organization, and we’ve experienced the Symphony’s growth into an orchestra recognized nationally for the quality of its concerts and educational programs,” said Richard DeVos. “We are glad to help preserve and sustain our orchestra, which helps create a positive atmosphere for growth in our community.”

The security that a well-funded endowment provides also is a powerful draw to attract both top-notch musicians and artistic leaders alike. The Grand Rapids Symphony currently is in the final stages of its search for a new music director to succeed David Lockington, who was appointed music director laureate last year.

A key goal of the Grand Rapids Symphony, which today has an annual operating budget of more than $9 million, is to grow an endowment to provide more than 25 percent of the annual expenses of the orchestra that was nominated for a 2007 Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover recording.

Similar to many orchestras, ticket sales account for only one-third of the cost to operate the Grand Rapids Symphony, which produces nearly 50 different programs and gives about 130 concerts per season, both free and ticketed. Annual giving must supply most of the rest.

“This campaign is an important part of the organization's long-term financial roadmap to help sustain and advance the orchestra's programming and extensive collaborations in the years ahead,” said Peter Perez, co-chair of the Legacy campaign cabinet and Immediate Past Chairperson of the GRS Board of Directors. "Artistic excellence and engagement, education, outreach as well as economic impact all are ways in which the Symphony is an integral and essential part of our region.”

Last fall, a $2 million contribution to the Legacy for Excellence Campaign from philanthropists Dan and Pamella DeVos launched two new Grand Rapids Symphony programs, Free for Families and Symphony Scorecard, to offer greater access to concerts and activities by reducing economic barriers.

Free for Families, for children and teenagers through 12th grade, allows up to two youngsters to attend concerts for free when accompanied by an adult buying one full-price ticket.
Symphony Scorecard offers up to four complimentary tickets per concert for community members receiving financial assistance from the State of Michigan as well as for families of active-duty U.S. military personnel and those serving in the Reserves or National Guard.

Since September, Free for Families has provided more than 500 tickets, and Symphony Scorecard has distributed nearly 1,500 tickets in its first eight months.

The Legacy of Excellence Campaign’s lead donors, Richard and Helen DeVos, have been longtime supporters and benefactors of the orchestra, which is in its 86th season.
In 1971, Helen DeVos joined the Grand Rapids Symphony Board of Directors. Three years later, the couple provided the support to hire five full-time, paid musicians, beginning the Symphony’s transition to a nationally recognized, professional orchestra.

The Grand Rapids Symphony’s DeVos String Quartet was named in recognition of their support.

The couple was influential in building DeVos Performance Hall, which opened in 1980 and has remained the orchestra’s principal performance venue since then.

“The Symphony’s extraordinary partnership with Rich and Helen DeVos has been vital in developing our extraordinary orchestra,” said Peter Kjome, Grand Rapids Symphony President and CEO. “Their leadership has provided inspiration and encouragement to ensure the success of the campaign, which is a crucial part of our strategic plan and ongoing efforts to support the work of our superb musicians and the Symphony’s broad range of programs.”

Helen DeVos, who continues as an honorary member of the board of directors, was recognized in 2007 with the Grand Rapids Symphony’s BRAVO! Lifetime Achievement Award for decades of service to the organization.

“After attending many concerts over the years, we know that the orchestra provides inspiration, education, and enjoyment for the people of West Michigan,” Helen DeVos said. “We believe in the Grand Rapids Symphony and are excited to help the orchestra continue to serve thousands of people and their families each year. We appreciate the generous participation of the many people who have joined together to support the Symphony and the artistic excellence and educational programs our region appreciates.”

“Helen and I have supported the efforts of the Board of Directors to make hard decisions and conserve financial resources,” added Richard DeVos. “We are confident that everyone will continue to do their part to help the orchestra, wanting it to enrich our community with the joy of music for many generations to come.”

The Honorary Vice Chairs for the Legacy of Excellence Campaign are Daniel and Pamella DeVos. Dan DeVos previously served as Board Chairperson of the Grand Rapids Symphony. Pamella DeVos served as Vice Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Symphony Board and in 2012 was elected as an Honorary Board Member. 

The Legacy of Excellence Campaign Chairs include the Frey Foundation; the Meijer Foundation; the Wege Foundation; Honorary Board Member Jack H. Miller; and GRS Board of Directors Chairperson Kate Pew Wolters. In addition, the late Edith I. Blodgett and the late Peter Wege are recognized in memoriam as Campaign Chairs in acknowledgment of their devotion to the orchestra and early participation in the campaign. Two generous Grand Rapids Symphony supporters providing leadership gifts have chosen to remain anonymous.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Advisor Larry Rachleff, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities all reached through extensive education and community service programs. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. GRS sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival and provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the Grand Rapids Symphony’s website,

This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.