Grand Rapids Musician Lauded
Grand Rapids Symphony violinist Diane McElfish Helle has recently been recognized with two important awards for her work creating and expanding the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Music for Health Initiative. Diane, who has been with the orchestra for 38 years, received the League of American Orchestra’s Ford Musician Award for Excellence in Community Service at the League conference in June. She was also presented with the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Bravo Award—only the second musician to receive this award in its 26-year history. This award honors individuals, couples, foundations, and corporations who have contributed to the orchestra in extraordinary ways.
The Grand Rapids Symphony’s Music for Health Initiative began in the 2013-14 season with six musicians, and has since expanded to 16 musicians participating. Diane worked with Symphony staff to develop the program, which introduced live music performed by symphony players into a number of healthcare settings. The musicians work with music therapists, performing duo arrangements of pieces of various styles for patients during specifically designed music therapy sessions.
Diane coordinates all the musicians’ services, and was the guiding force behind the development and recording of The Music Therapy Guide, specifically written and arranged for the Music for Health Initiative by composer, and former GRS cellist, Jeremy Crosmer. The Guide includes pieces of different styles and a set of meditations. In the fall of 2016, four hours of the meditations from the Guide were recorded and paired with scenic pictures. This recording is now available to patients and families on a dedicated TV channel in five Spectrum Health facilities in the West Michigan area.
Motor City Munificence
On October 30, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra announced an exciting new $15 million gift from the William Davidson Foundation, a longtime supporter of the DSO. Part of the gift will provide continued support for the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series, which, for the past seven years, has sponsored DSO concerts in community venues throughout Metro Detroit. Another portion of the gift is earmarked as a $5 million challenge grant to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s endowment. This challenge has already been met more than halfway, thanks to a new $2 million gift from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a $1 million gift from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Foundation, and $500,000 from the Dresner Foundation. All three of these organizations have given generously to the DSO in the recent past, including gifts to the annual fund and the DSO’s Civic Youth Ensembles.
Los Angeles Announces Fellowship Program
On November 9th, the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced—along with its 100th anniversary “Centennial Celebrations”—the LA Phil Resident Fellows program. The LA Phil Resident Fellowship is an excellence-based training program to prepare early-career symphony musicians, representing and serving historically underrepresented populations, to successfully compete for positions in major symphony orchestras. The specifics of this program were arrived at in the course of contract negotiations between the musicians of the LA Phil and their management; both parties collaborated to find additional ways to serve and represent the orchestra’s community.
Annual appointments of up to five Resident Fellows (strings and percussion) will play with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for a minimum of 20 weeks per year for up to three years. Resident Fellows will focus on their artistic development through orchestral, chamber music, new music, and education concerts, performing at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and in community settings. They will also have the opportunity to tour with the Philharmonic. In addition, the LA Phil Resident Fellows program offers assistance with lessons, auditions, and housing. Applications are open now and the process for obtaining one of these positions is explained in greater detail on the LA Phil website.