KSO Receives $75,000 from Catalyst Fund Grant for DEI Initiatives | Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
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KSO Receives $75,000 from Catalyst Fund Grant for DEI Initiatives

League of American Orchestras Catalyst Fund Incubator

The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra is one of 20 U.S. Orchestras to Receive Catalyst Fund Incubator Grant from League of American Orchestras, Incorporating Elements from High-Tech Incubator Models to Accelerate Organizational Inclusivity and Field-Wide Learning


Grantmaking Program, Supported by a $2.1 Million Leadership Gift from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Reimagines Orchestras as Laboratories for the Field, Developing Strategies and Utilizing a Peer-Focused Curriculum to Help Drive Field-Wide Change


(Kalamazoo, Michigan) (March 31, 2022) – The League of American Orchestras has awarded a $75,000 grant to the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra to nurture and sustain a culture that empowers a feeling of inclusivity. Given to just 20 orchestras nationwide, the three-year grants are made possible by a $2.1 million leadership grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation. The Catalyst Fund Incubator drives change by incorporating models from high-tech incubators, such as creating strong peer communities for brainstorming and strategizing and developing new ideas through mentorships. An important element of the program focuses on building capacity to attract new resources, including funding and partnerships, for the orchestras’ equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) work.


“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,” says 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.”


“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.”


In June 2021, the KSO, with its board, staff, and musicians, adopted a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Charter. The Charter outlines three areas of actionable change to allow the KSO to better serve both its internal and external constituents better: Administrative, Leadership & Governance; Artistic Activity; and Audience, Partners, and Community. The support from the Catalyst Grant will assist the KSO in focusing on organizational culture, examining inclusivity within programming, and striving to reflect the community we serve in our audiences and partners.


About The Catalyst Fund Incubator

Community building is a strong component of the Incubator. During the three-year grant period, participating orchestras will take part in five convenings each grant year—three curricular sessions and two peer learning convenings. Informal and facilitated discussion via online communication platforms will connect participants with the wider Catalyst Fund community of previous grantees. To encourage stakeholder engagement, administrative, educational, and artistic staff, board members, and musicians from each orchestra will participate. 


The grants will enable orchestras to work directly with professional EDI consultants. The consultants’ work is multifaceted: helping orchestras clarify, map and measure equity, diversity, and inclusion goals, and offering guidance on a wide array of issues, such as avoiding common pitfalls when doing EDI work; mediating conflict around differences of opinion on approach and strategy; and best practices for including a multitude of voices and perspectives, among others.


Incubator grantees were required to demonstrate strength of vision, institutional commitment, and readiness. The 20 orchestras were selected via an independent panel of EDI experts and practitioners in the arts and orchestral fields.


About Catalyst

Launched in 2019 and preceding the Incubator, The Catalyst Fund pilot program made a strong impact on the field, with several orchestras receiving multiple grants over three years to sustain their work. 76 Catalyst Fund grants were awarded to 49 orchestras of all sizes and types, each demonstrating a strong commitment and dedication to EDI work and an increased awareness that systemic change requires a sustained effort over time. More than 80% of first-year grantees reported making either policy or programming changes as a result of their funded work, with most engaging board and musicians alongside staff.


The Catalyst Fund Incubator and The Catalyst Fund pilot program are informed by earlier dialogue and research. A major national convening co-hosted by the League and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in December 2015 was catalytic in launching national task forces and annual convenings to engage orchestras in EDI efforts. Two important League studies, Racial/Ethnic and Gender Diversity in the Orchestra Field, and Forty Years of Fellowships: A Study of Orchestras' Efforts to Include African American and Latino Musicians, further served to inform and stimulate action. In April 2018 the League launched, in partnership with The Sphinx Organization and the New World Symphony, the National Alliance for Audition Support, a national initiative that offers Black and Latinx musicians a customized combination of mentoring, audition preparation, and audition travel stipends. Additional information on these programs and other EDI activity, including the League’s Catalyst Guides, Promising Practices: Actions Orchestras Can Take to Make Progress Toward Equity and Making the Case for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Orchestras, its EDI Strategic Framework, and articles, webinars, and other materials, is available from the League’s Catalyst Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Resource Center.


Catalyst is made possible by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with additional support from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation.


2022 Catalyst Fund Incubator Grant Recipients

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Charleston Symphony Orchestra

Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras

Hawai'i Symphony Orchestra

Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra

Jacksonville Symphony

Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

Minnesota Orchestra

Napa Valley Youth Symphony

New Jersey Symphony

San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory

South Dakota Symphony Orchestra

Stamford Symphony

Symphony Tacoma

Chicago Philharmonic

Louisville Orchestra

Walla Walla Symphony

Winston-Salem Symphony

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra

Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA)


About the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
Making symphonic music a part of everyday life for 100 years, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra shares lifelong musical experiences and learning throughout our community. The KSO is on the stage—and online—actively collaborating with other Kalamazoo area organizations to inspire, care for, educate, and connect people through the arts. The KSO is the state’s third-largest orchestra, serving Michigan’s sixth-largest metropolitan area with a professional roster of more than 80 musicians and a dedicated staff through exceptional symphonic music, world-class guest artists, and a vibrant educational program.


The KSO receives major support from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, and the Stryker Johnston Foundation, and is supported by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Recognitions, awards, and grants include a major Ford Foundation grant to establish an innovative Artists in Residence program, and recognition from Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. The KSO also receives generous support from other local, state, and national foundations, as well as private and corporate support.


Music Connects Us 100th Anniversary Campaign

The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra’s Music Connects Us 100th Anniversary Campaign is an $8.8 million community effort to ensure a vibrant future for the KSO's next 100 years. This bold initiative will enhance the symphony's artistic excellence, community engagement, and financial sustainability. Gifts to the Music Connects Us campaign can be made online at www.kalamazoosymphony.com/100th-Campaign-draft.


The League of American Orchestras leads, supports, and champions America’s orchestras and the vitality of the music they perform. Its diverse membership of more than 1,800 organizations and individuals across North America runs the gamut from world-renowned orchestras to community groups, from summer festivals to student and youth ensembles, from conservatories to libraries, from businesses serving orchestras to individuals who love symphonic music. The national organization dedicated solely to the orchestral experience, the League is a nexus of knowledge and innovation, advocacy, and leadership advancement. Its conferences and events, award-winning Symphony magazine, website, and other publications inform people 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 americanorchestras.org.

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