National Endowment for the Arts awards Grand Rapids Symphony $10,000 grant for 'Symphony with Soul'

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GRAND RAPIDS, MI, Dec. 16, 2016 – The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded a $10,000 grant to the Grand Rapids Symphony for its 2017 “Symphony with Soul” concert.

The 16th annual event, featuring Grammy Award winning singer Lalah Hathaway, will be held Feb. 18, 2017 in DeVos Performance Hall.

The Grand Rapids Symphony’s award is its third consecutive grant in six years through the NEA’s biennial Challenge America program, which supports projects that extend the reach of the arts to those with limited opportunities due to economics, disability, ethnicity or geography. 

In 2002, the Grand Rapids Symphony created “Symphony with Soul” to open its doors to the wider community.

“The Grand Rapids Symphony launched ‘Symphony with Soul’ to welcome a broader audience into our community concert hall, as participating performers as well as patrons,” said Roger D. Nelson, vice president and chief operating officer. “Fifteen years later, people who had never set foot in a concert hall or heard an orchestra perform live have now become a permanent part of the Grand Rapids Symphony family and enjoy the wonder and joy of music that was meant for everyone.”

The annual community collaboration has welcomed such musicians as Vanessa Williams, Marvin Sapp and Dee Dee Bridgewater to DeVos Performance Hall, joined by the Grand Rapids Community Chorus organized by Duane Davis, retired director of vocal music at Grand Rapids Community College.

Proceeds from “Symphony with Soul” and its accompanying “Celebration of Soul” gala help support the Mosaic Scholarship Fund, which provides training on musical instruments and mentoring by professional musicians of the Grand Rapids Symphony. The Mosaic Scholarships were created in 2005 with a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The National Endowment for the Arts on Tuesday awarded more than $30 million to nonprofit arts organizations in 48 states for 2017.

Grand Rapids Symphony is the only orchestra in Michigan and one of only two organizations in Grand Rapids among the 21 grants totaling $445,000 for the Great Lake State.

Locally, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts also was awarded a grant to support an exhibition of art by contemporary African-American artists.

“The arts are for all of us, and by supporting organizations such as the Grand Rapid Symphony, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu, in a prepared statement.  “Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum, or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer.”

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 Director Marcelo Lehninger, 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 provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet and sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which returns in March 2017.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the website or

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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.