“The Wege Foundation has partnered with the West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology (WMCAT) to help share our grantees’ stories.”
Article by Arieal Jackson
Photography by Mariah Barrera & Trina Cunningham
Cinematography by Erion Adams and Joseph Kunnen
Audio Micah Garmon
Editing Michael Saunders
The Grand Rapids Symphony has a multifaceted commitment to diversity and inclusion throughout its programming, educational services and outreach. Through their popular Neighborhood Concert Series the Symphony brings classical music directly to neighborhoods within Grand Rapids. Another program called the Celebration of Soul honors the accomplishments of individuals and organizations that celebrate the importance of diversity, inclusion and bridge-building in West Michigan. There is also a broad base of educational programs in which the Symphony engages with youth including: Free For Kids series, Lollipop concerts and the Mosaic Scholars. The Mosaic Scholars recently partnered with the Video Production Studio at the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology (WMCAT) and their Grand Rapids High School students to help capture the impact of this particular program. WMCAT students were able to highlight and share the unique experimentation through music which happens in each Sketch Session. Today, the Grand Rapids Symphony is a gateway of music that engages with people of all ages and different backgrounds. The Wege Foundation is proud to support The Grand Rapids Symphony and their efforts towards diversity and inclusion.
On Saturday, November 3rd, Mosaic Scholars started off with instrumental warm ups with Jill, the Mosaic Scholars leader. Next, they played pieces or read work they had and let other Scholars collaborate off it, adding their own music or words. Lastly, everyone broke up into groups to create a piece within fifteen minutes, including poetry and all the different instruments ranging from clarinets to cellos. Afterwards,every group shared out what they created; with the art created in just fifteen minutes one could only imagine what they could do with more.
The Mosaic Scholarship provides funds to talented African American and Latino students to partner one-on-one with Grand Rapids Symphony musicians.
When interviewing the Scholars, a specific question of what diversity is to them and how it is represented in these sessions was asked. The responses were all divergent and elaborate. Scholar Janel Shannon,17, has been playing the cello since 4th grade and was raised in a Hispanic household. She now attends Caledonia High School and explained how it’s been a great experience to be around people within her culture who have similar perspectives on life which makes her feel as if she is not alone and have people to turn to. The Mosaic Scholarship and the Mosaic Scholars have opened her up to these experiences. Another Scholar LJ Bowmen,17, plays the bass clarinet and piano, and is a vocalist. LJ spoke on how just having those different backgrounds bring more creativity to the table. Chloe a member of The Diatribe, a poet and a vocalist of age 17. She said that diversity is a mix of what makes people special and that she loves to learn about every person as an individual. Overall diversity is represented well within the Mosaic Scholars and it has brought a positive and comfortable creative space into their lives.
The symphony plays a big part with the Scholars, mentoring them and giving them opportunities to find out who they are and/or want to be. Janel Shannon, a Scholar of six years said that the opportunities given by the Symphony have allowed her to be in multiple music videos, connect with her church and figure out that she loves business and wants to go into accounting. Another Scholar, first year clarinet player Kiara Roble says that the opportunities have made her a stronger musician and have allowed her to make melodies that describe who she is. The opportunities given by the Symphony to the Mosaic Scholars make these teenagers better people, musicians and artists.
When seeing the diversity and the talent these Scholars display, it’s amazing to watch them express their talent in a non-judgemental environment. One would be excited to see where they go from here with the opportunities given to them.