Gateways Music Festival to perform at Carnegie Hall

Gateways Music Festival, in association with Eastman School of Music, has received an $800,000 award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Gateways is a nearly three-decade-old organization that works to connect and support professional classical musicians of African descent.

“This award is a powerful confirmation of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s belief in Gateways’ unique mission, and it acknowledges our importance in today’s classical music ecosystem,” said Gateways board Chairwoman Kearstin Piper Brown. “The lack of Black classical musicians on American concert stages is concerning for all of us, and Gateways is proud to provide a supportive and affirming artistic home for our musicians, enabling them to continue to thrive in their careers.”

The grant will help support Gateways’ historic Carnegie Hall debut on April 24, 2022, when the orchestra will become the first all-Black classical symphony orchestra to be presented by Carnegie Hall in the venue’s 130-year history.

The debut will be dedicated to Gateways’ long-time music director and conductor Michael Morgan, who died in August this year.

“Michael Morgan’s influence on the Gateways organization and the musicians is profound,” said President and Artistic Director Lee Koonce. “We are a stronger and better organization because of his efforts and are committed to bringing our special brand of classical music-making to New York City just as he envisioned.”

In addition to its Carnegie Hall debut, Gateways will offer several additional concerts and events at Eastman School of Music next year, as well as in New York City.

“We are delighted not only to have renewed but also increased support to the Gateways Music Festival in order to help ensure the success of its April 2022 tour to New York City, where Gateways will perform at events across the city, culminating in its Carnegie Hall debut,” said Susan Feder, program officer for arts & culture with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “We hope that this increased exposure will draw deserved attention to this remarkable organization and its talented artists, as well as honoring the memory of Michael Morgan, whose unparalleled dedication to Gateways brought it to this transformational moment.”

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RPO receives $100,000 grant to perform for dementia patients

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has received a $100,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support free arts programming for individuals with dementia and their caregivers.

The grant was awarded through the foundation’s Public Affairs initiative and will support a pilot care and wellness program for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and their care partners. The grant also supports training for the musicians who will work with the individuals.

The 18-month project will encompass 10 ensemble visits to care facilities and 10 open rehearsals through December 2022. Ensemble visits of trios, quartets and quintets will bring RPO musicians out of the concert hall and into senior homes, hospitals and specialized memory care facilities, allowing for more intimate connection in a comfortable environment for the patients and their caregivers.

Open rehearsals will enable individuals with neurodegenerative diseases to enjoy live orchestral music at Kodak Hall. The daytime events will be stress-free for the patients.

The grant allows the RPO to build upon previous efforts and create a regular, expanded slate of accessible programming, officials said. Following the pilot program, the orchestra hopes to expand the initiative to include a broader range of conditions.

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Gateways Festival wins Mellon Foundation grant

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has given Gateways Music Festival a $300,000 grant that will help the formerly all-volunteer organization forge a more secure future.

The biennial festival provides a showcase for the talents of classical musicians of African descent and has been affiliated with the Eastman School of Music 1995. Retired Eastman professor Armenta Hummings Dimisani, a Julliard-trained pianist, founded the festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 1993.

Just 18 months ago the festival added its first paid position, appointing Lee Koonce as its president and artistic director. He also acts as senior adviser to the dean of Eastman.

Lee Koonce, artistic director, Gateways Festival
Lee Koonce, artistic director, Gateways Festival

The Mellon Foundation grant—the largest in Gateways’ history—will provide funding for two more staff members over three years, as well as the contractual services of a graphic artist/web designer and a grant writer.

Koonce, in announcing the grant, said, “This much-needed support will enable Gateways to deepen and expand our programs and reach more musicians and audiences.” As a condition of the grant, Gateways will seek other funding to support the positions it is adding.

The festival offers more than 50 performances over six days in the Eastman Theatre, schools, faith institutions and other locations in the city and suburbs of Rochester. The performers come from the top orchestras, ensembles and schools from around the nation.

“This award will directly support the Festival’s recently completed four-year strategic plan—which was also funded by The Mellon Foundation,” said Paul J. Burgett, chairman of Gateways’ Board of Directors. “With input from many individuals from the Rochester community, national arts leaders, Gateways musicians, volunteers and board members, the overarching message from the plan was the importance of building the Festival’s capacity to ensure its continued vitality and longevity.  This award will help us do just that.”

Koonce noted that the Mellon Foundation has been a leader in reshaping American orchestras to more closely reflect their communities.

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