Recent NEA Grants Highlight Orchestras' Innovative Programming



Rachelle Schlosser, Director of Media Relations
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New York, NY (January 24, 2012) – American orchestras coast to coast have innovative plans for 2012 and beyond as they seek to engage their communities and broaden access.

These unique initiatives range from the Albany Symphony’s five day American Music Festival that turns the region into a hub for new music and a Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Musical Louisiana: America’s Cultural Heritage concert featuring performances of works by composers including Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton, to Pacific Symphony’s A Nowruz Celebration festival hailing the ancient Persian New Year and the Milwaukee Symphony’s performances of a new cross-cultural work utilizing traditional Chinese instruments.

All of these ambitious projects and many more – including low-cost and free performances -- have received Art Works or Challenge America Fast-Track grants from the National Endowment of the Arts for FY 2012. Further NEA Art Works grants will be announced in the spring.

The highly competitive grants fund a wide variety of initiatives, including educational programs serving America’s youth, as well as seniors; genre-bending cultural programming merging classical, jazz and world music; community and cultural engagement efforts and partnerships; musician training and professional development; and artist and composer residencies.

"With these grants the NEA is recognizing the vital role that orchestras are playing in bringing the arts to Americans of all backgrounds," said League of American Orchestras president and CEO Jesse Rosen. "The NEA’s support also adds value as a springboard for inspiring others to support these meaningful projects."

Below are some examples of innovative initiatives funded by the National Endowment of the Arts’ first round of Art Works grants or Challenge America Fast-Track Grants for FY 2012:

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra received a grant to support the Orchestra Fellows Program for minority musicians. Plans for the second year of the program will include mentorship activities, private coaching, audition preparation, and training for community engagement and educational events.

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will program works in Milwaukee and New York’s Carnegie Hall (May 11, 2012) by three generations of French composers--Claude Debussy, Olivier Messiaen, and Qigang Chen, whose work, Iris dévoilée, unites Eastern and Western cultures by balancing the traditional Chinese opera vocalist with a Western vocalist and highlighting three traditional Chinese instruments: the pipa, zheng and erhu. Related educational activities will include a free community program featuring a discussion of the piece and a demonstration of traditional Chinese instruments.

The Orchestra of Southern Utah received a grant for Capturing the Caribbean, taking place in February 2013 and highlighting the sounds and traditions of the Caribbean. Events include assemblies for area elementary schools, a Children's Jubilee family matinee, and an evening concert. A guest artist steel drum band ensemble will perform with the orchestra and educators and students from Southern Utah University will help with hands-on art and science activities after the family matinee. Lobby displays at the matinee include art, musical instruments for the children to try, and face painting. In conjunction with the Jubilee, a food drive for the local food pantry will provide a means for the orchestra to serve those in need, as well as give families an opportunity to obtain discounted admission.

The Eugene Symphony received a grant to support the Laura Avery Visiting Masters Program, an annual series of artistic development activities for student musicians. The program offers master classes, coaching sessions, lectures, and workshops by guest artists including the violinist Midori, who will be among featured participants in 2012. All opportunities are free and open to the public.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will sponsor an artist residency with Composer of the Year Steven Stucky, which places the composer in residence in the community and engages him with young student composers. Performances will include the world premiere of Stucky’s newly commissioned work celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s ground-breaking call for attention to the environment, Silent Spring (February 17-19, 2012 in Pittsburgh and February 25 and 26 in Long Island and New York’s Avery Fisher Hall), as well as performances of the composer’s Spirit Voices with percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie (January 13-15, 2012) and Son et Lumiere (Sound and Light) (March 30-April 1).

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra received a grant in conjunction with its Keys to the City Piano Festival, a three-week, 13-event festival (May 20-June 12, 2012) curated by pianist Emanuel Ax and offering free symposia, a free community piano day, and free and ticketed concerts in a variety of programming, including solo recitals, piano duets, concertos, chamber music and jazz events, as well as piano concerts leading up to the festival.

The Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra received a grant for the Intensive Community Program, a string instrument program serving inner-city youth offering kids financial assistance for weekly music lessons, ensemble classes, summer camp and use of an instrument. The program’s focus is to prepare the participants to audition successfully into one of the organization’s four youth orchestras. This season the program will serve 68 students; 52 of those students have successfully auditioned into one of the BYSO orchestras.

Illinois’ Rockford Symphony Orchestra will present Beethoven Live! on April 25, 2012. Elementary and Middle school students from schools, including those serving low-income families, will travel to the Coronado Performing Arts Center for two performances; pre-concert educational materials are available for teachers and home-school parents, and there will be an additional matinee performance targeting seniors or those who cannot drive at night.

Symphony orchestras in cities as far flung as El Paso, Eugene, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York all received additional funds for educational programs and initiatives that serve their communities.

Additional grant recipients, among others, include the Berkeley Symphony to support commissions, premieres and residency activities with composers Paul Dresher and Steven Stucky, including participation by both composers in a mentorship program for local emerging composers and the Princeton Symphony Orchestra for the world premiere on February 9, 2012 of the original dramatization of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, complete with music by Prokofiev, along with a free lecture at the Princeton Public Library about the work, which was banned during the Stalinist era.

The complete list of orchestras receiving the first series of NEA Art Works grants for FY 2012 includes:

Albany Symphony (NY), $15,000
American Composers Orchestra, $30,000
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, $35,000
Berkeley Symphony, $15,000
Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, $10,000
Boston Symphony Orchestra, $60,000
Boston Symphony Orchestra, (on behalf of Tanglewood Music Center), $50,000
Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, $40,000
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, $15,000
California Symphony, $10,000
Chicago Sinfonietta, $10,000
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, $75,000
Civic Orchestra of Chicago, $50,000
El Paso Symphony Orchestra, $30,000
Eugene Symphony, $10,000
Kansas City Symphony, $15,000
Los Angeles Philharmonic, $70,000
Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, $22,500
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, $25,000
Minnesota Orchestra, $50,000
National Symphony Orchestra, $40,000
New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, $10,000
New World Symphony, $60,000
New York Philharmonic, $60,000
New York Pops, $10,000
New York Youth Symphony, $20,000
Oakland East Bay Symphony, $20,000
Pacific Symphony, $45,000
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, $12,500
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, $70,000
Princeton Symphony Orchestra, $10,000
ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, $10,000
Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, $10,000
San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, $90,000
San Francisco Symphony, $60,000
Seattle Symphony, $15,000
Tempesta di Mare, $12,500
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, $50,000
Tucson Symphony Orchestra, $10,000

The full list, detailing each project, is available here: NEA Art Works Grants .

The complete list of orchestras receiving Challenge America Fast-Track grants for FY 2012 includes (each $10,000):

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
Billings Symphony Orchestra & Chorale
Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra
Great Falls Symphony
Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra
Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra
LaPorte County Symphony Orchestra
Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra
Lima Symphony Orchestra
Mid Texas Symphony
Minneapolis Pops Orchestra
Northwest Symphony Orchestra
Orchestra of Southern Utah
Peninsula Symphony Association
Rockford Symphony Orchestra
Waco Symphony Orchestra

The full list, detailing each project, is available here: Challenge America Fast-Track Grants

Complete lists of grant amounts and project descriptions for awards in all disciplines may be found on the NEA web site

The NEA Art Works (Part One) grants totaling $1,252,500 will support 39 distinct orchestra projects which fit into one of four categories: creating works of art through commissions and artists residencies; engaging the public with works of art through exhibitions, tours, and festivals; furthering lifelong learning in the arts in schools, communities, and at arts organizations; or increasing community livability through the arts. Art Works (Part Two) grants will be announced in the spring of 2012.

Challenge America Fast-Track grants offer support primarily to small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations -- those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. Grant applicants receive an expedited application review.

The League of American Orchestras leads, supports, and champions America’s orchestras and the vitality of the music they perform. Its diverse membership of approximately 850 orchestras across North America runs the gamut from world-renowned symphonies to community groups, from summer festivals to student and youth ensembles. The only national organization dedicated solely to the orchestral experience, the League is a nexus of knowledge and innovation, advocacy, and leadership advancement for managers, musicians, volunteers, and boards. Its conferences and events, award-winning Symphony magazine, website, and other publications inform music lovers around the world about orchestral activity and developments. Founded in 1942 and chartered by Congress in 1962, the League links a national network of thousands of instrumentalists, conductors, managers and administrators, board members, volunteers, and business partners. Visit to learn more.

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