2007 MetLife Awardees

In January 2007, the League of American Orchestras announced the winners of the 2007 MetLife Awards for Excellence in Community Engagement. The MetLife awards honor outstanding work by orchestras in the emerging field of community engagement, highlighting programs that can serve as models for other orchestras.

League member orchestras of all sizes operating within the fifty states and the District of Columbia may be considered for the award. Programs are evaluated according to their effectiveness in community involvement; their ability to strengthen the orchestra’s role as a “cultural citizen” in the community; their success in building community partnerships with other organizations; their measurable results; and their potential as models for possible replication by other orchestras.

The 2007 MetLife awards are given in two categories:

Category I: The Longwood Symphony Orchestra, Oakland East Bay Symphony, and The Philadelphia Orchestra won awards for programs that have been in operation for no less than two years. Through a generous gift from MetLife Foundation, each of the winning orchestras will be honored with an award of $7,500.

Category II: Virginia Symphony Orchestra won an award for a new program that is inspired and significantly influenced by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra’s "IN UNISON" program, a 2002 winner of the MetLife awards. Through a generous gift from MetLife Foundation, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra will receive an award of $10,000, and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra will receive a $2,000 award to serve as a mentor to the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

2007 MetLife Award Winners:

Longwood Symphony Orchestra: Healing Art of Music Program

Comprising highly trained musicians from Boston's medical community and under the musical direction of Jonathan McPhee, the Longwood Symphony Orchestra (LSO) performs its four season concerts as benefits for health-related charitable organizations. LSO's "Healing Art of Music" program raises funds and awareness for medical charities by designing each concert as a centerpiece of the beneficiary's own fundraising event. Each beneficiary receives a block of tickets at a discounted price, and LSO helps the organization to determine fundraising goals and plan events. Since the program’s inception in 1991, LSO has partnered with 26 different medical nonprofit organizations of various sizes and missions, and raised $700,000 to benefit the medically underserved, homeless and children’s healthcare charities, community health centers, patients with neurodegenerative diseases, and more. Through these collaborations, each concert introduces new audiences to the concert experience.  

Oakland East Bay Symphony: The Community Building Project

In an effort to make symphony music accessible to the diverse population of Oakland and the greater East Bay in California, Oakland East Bay Symphony (OEBS) created the Community Building Project, a program that reflects their sincere commitment to community engagement. The multi-faceted Community Building Project involves the commissioning of new works as an engagement tool to connect to new audiences. In 1998 OEBS formed a multi-year partnership with The James Irvine Foundation to initiate The Commissioning Project, a commissioning and performance program for new symphony works, particularly by local composers of the Bay Area community. The Community Building Project also involves collaboration with local artists and interaction with the community in panel discussions and forums, as well as in education and community programs. Led by Music Director Michael Morgan, the program features partnerships with cultural, civic, and social institutions and provides leadership in Oakland’s artistic community by fostering unity, collaboration, and co-creation among local arts organizations.  

The Philadelphia Orchestra: Camden Community Partnership

In 2003, The Philadelphia Orchestra launched the Camden Community Partnership (CCP) to make music a vital part of the renewal of Camden, a city in New Jersey (located directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia) that has been experiencing chronic problems related to poverty, crime, and general economic decline. Integral components of the program include the annual Camden Neighborhood Concert, a free concert that in its third year drew more than 3,000 audience members; a weekly series of creative music workshops for community members to develop skills in music composition, music performance, and storytelling; and extensive involvement with inner-city 3rd, 4th and 5th graders and their families. A partnership with the Cooper University Hospital in Camden, formed in 2003, helped launch this project, and elicited the involvement of groups affiliated with the hospital, including neighborhood groups, churches, hospitals, city government, and schools. By 2007 the Orchestra hopes to strengthen and expand its collaborations with other organizations working on the artistic and economic revitalization in Camden. The Philadelphia Orchestra has made a multi-year commitment to using musical engagement as a means to improve the economic condition, emotional health, and future outlook of the city.  

Virginia Symphony Orchestra: "Harmony Project"

This season the Virginia Symphony Orchestra launches the "Harmony Project," designed to cultivate audiences among the African-American communities in Hampton Roads, a seven city region located in southeastern Virginia and northeastern Carolina. The "Harmony Project" will offer free musical and educational services to three church congregations, which will include up to four visits by musicians for Sunday School classes, worship services, or fellowship services, as well as performances at special church events. As part of the reciprocal relationship with the churches, members of the church will receive a minimum of 100 discounted tickets. The "Harmony Project" is modeled after the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra’s "IN UNISON" program, which won a MetLife award in 2002. Both programs strive to expand audience diversity and to foster relationships with the audience. With the launch of the "Harmony Project," the Virginia Symphony Orchestra hopes to eliminate social and economic barriers that limit arts participation and to reinforce the vital role of music and the arts in building strong and unified communities.