Kalamazoo orchestra earns DEI grant

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Courtesy Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra (KSO) was the recipient of a $75,000 Catalyst Fund Incubator grant from the League of American Orchestras.

The three-year grant is a part of a $2.1 million leadership grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation that was awarded to 20 orchestras in the country.

The incubator grant aims to promote inclusivity. It allows orchestras to work with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) charter consultants who help orchestras clarify DEI goals and offer guidance on issues when doing DEI work; mediating conflict around differences of opinion on approach and strategy; and best practices for including a multitude of voices and perspectives.

The orchestras awarded grants must take part in five conventions each grant year — three curricular sessions and two peer learning conventions.

“The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra is putting diversity, equity and inclusion at the core of our organization in daily practice and embodying these values in our work in the community and on the main stage,” said KSO Executive Director Jessica Mallow. “KSO’s concerts, community programs and educational programs are opportunities to bring people together to connect through the arts. This award from the Catalyst Fund Incubator will allow the KSO to continue building an organization that reflects the diverse community we serve. We recognize that this is the foundation for continuous work. It includes each of us, working together to create a space where listeners and performers from all backgrounds and cultures can thrive.”

In June 2021, the KSO, with its board, staff and musicians adopted a DEI charter. The charter outlines three areas of actionable change to allow the KSO to serve its internal and external constituents better: administrative, leadership and governance; artistic activity; and audience, partners and community.

“We’re so grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their vision and years of support and to the 49 orchestras in the initial Catalyst Fund pilot program who have infused the field with insights and helped the entire field begin to effect change,” said Simon Woods, the league’s president and CEO. “The new incubator program accelerates and deepens this work, inspiring orchestras to nurture and sustain inclusive organizational cultures over the long term. I’m especially excited about widely sharing this learning, including our new guide, Promising Practices: Actions Orchestras Can Take to Make Progress Toward Equity, and a fantastic slate of additional catalyst resources to come later this year.”

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