2020-2021 Season Highights

92 years ago, advocates for the arts in Grand Rapids determined that an orchestra would not only enrich the city and region, it would contribute greatly to economic growth and quality of place. Established in 1930, the nationally recognized Grand Rapids Symphony serves West Michigan both in DeVos Performance Hall and in the community.


As the world changed in 2020, many orchestras around the country closed their doors. However, the Grand Rapids Symphony embraced strategic artistic advances and successfully fulfilled our mission to provide great music to the West Michigan community. Innovative summer programing in 2020 led to our virtual Pathwaves series which premiered in September 2020 and carried forward through May 2021.

One of the best ways to savor all that summer has to offer is with LIVE music. We expanded our musical presence in all parts of West Michigan–from the lakeshore to Meijer Gardens and many neighborhood green spaces in between, reflecting our commitment to serve all areas of our community. We also partnered with neighborhood associations through our Neighborhood Concert Series to perform short pop-up concerts in parks around the city. This series provided more than 1,400 attendees with 12 free performances across West Michigan, making music free and accessible to all.

It is with the utmost excitement that we move into the 2021-22 season, Together Again–LIVE which features a lineup of concerts, soloists, and composers who underline our commitment to celebrating diversity. Patrons will experience music from Mozart, Mahler, Beethoven, as well as music from new composers, works, and artists such as Brazilian composer Clarice Assad, Asian American violinist Simone Porter, and Spanish guitarist Pablo Sáinz-Villegas.


Prudent management of private and public support during the pandemic has resulted in the following milestones:
→ For the third consecutive fiscal year, the Grand Rapids Symphony achieved a positive net cash surplus from operations as of August 31, 2021.
→ On August 31, 2021, a two-year Collective Bargaining agreement was reached, strengthening the core orchestra position structure, retaining focus on artistic excellence and financial sustainability, restores the 5% compensation reduction taken this past fiscal year due to the pandemic, and increases compensation by 2% in January 2023.
→ Over four seasons, from Fiscal Year 2018 – Fiscal Year 2021, the Symphony’s cash position improved by approximately $2MM.

Now more than ever the Symphony is committed to finding inclusive and healing ways of bringing music to our community. Combining artistic innovations, long held traditions and your support, the Symphony will continue our 92-year commitment to West Michigan.


Through innovation and virtual programming, we continue to grow our education and access initiatives so more people can enjoy the transformative power of music. This year our PNC Lollipops concerts served over 23,000 students and teachers -- which is more than twice as many as our previous season! By delivering educational concerts online, schools that were previously unable to participate due to busing fees or distance enjoyed the Grand Rapids Symphony in their classrooms.

As we prepare for the next season of education and access, we are excited to be launching Link Up, a program of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. Link Up will provide free, high-quality, year-long curriculum which will inspire and enrich the minds and shape the future for students in grades 3-5.

We are excited to share that the exceptional virtual education content created for the 2020-2021 season will be available in our new Digital Library on YouTube for teachers and students throughout the school year. Content includes: Peter Rabbit and Winter (Lollipops K-2 content), Instrument Discovery Videos (4th or 5th Grade centered), Education Ensemble Videos (K-5 focused), and the 2021 Fifth Grade Concert.

Our Mosaic Scholarship continued to serve the West Michigan community through cultivating and nurturing 20 talented young Black and Latinx musicians during the 2020-21 season. We are happy to report the successful adaption of a completely virtual format; scholars met weekly via Zoom or Facetime with their private instructors for lessons, and met monthly for groups sessions.

"It helped me become more confident in my playing and in my speaking. I also found life-long connections from my fellow scholars and have had so many opportunities come to me because of the people I worked with in and outside of the Symphony.”

Kennedy Dixon, Mosaic Scholar Alumni Graduate, Viola

Our Music for Health Initiative engages and promotes health and well-being by creating supportive physical, emotional and spiritual experiences for patients affected by various serious, or life-threatening illnesses. Despite delays due to the pandemic, musicians shared the power of music with more than 600 patients and their families this past July, through eight therapy sessions and two live-streamed interactive events. Pre-recorded meditations were made available year-round, 24/7, on internal channels inpatient rooms and community spaces throughout the hospitals.

"To have so many people move close to us to listen, applaud between selections, and to see the joy in their eyes as they listened was incredible. I feel very fortunate to have an opportunity to bring music to people in this way, and I think yesterday is a perfect example of the importance of music therapy to people as they move through their health journey.”

- Michael Hovnanian, Grand Rapids Symphony, Bass

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