Detroit Symphony Orchestra receives grant from League of American Orchestras' Catalyst Fund to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion

- New program is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation 

Detroit, (May 30, 2019) – The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) has received a $25,000 Catalyst Fund grant from the League of American Orchestras. Given to just twenty-three orchestras across the country, the grants will help deepen understanding of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), improve practice, and strengthen organizational culture. The one-year grants comprise the first round of The Catalyst Fund, the League’s new three-year, $2.1 million grant-making program made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“There is a growing will among orchestras to make their organizations more inclusive, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s leadership, vision, and financial support is helping to drive these efforts,” said Jesse Rosen, the League of American Orchestras’ President and CEO.

“The DSO values the critical role diversity plays in a healthy society and aspires to create an environment where all people can experience their world through music,” said Anne Parsons, DSO President and CEO. “We are grateful to the League and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their efforts to build and share best practices in the American orchestra field, and the DSO looks forward to joining them in this important work.”

The Catalyst Fund grant will enable the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to engage EDI practitioners who will help implement a range of organizational development activities, specifically:

  •  Creating a formal EDI strategic plan, including written assessments, benchmarks, and key progress indicators
  •  Delivering EDI training for staff, musicians, and board members focusing on topics such as unconscious bias

The orchestras receiving this first round of Catalyst Fund grants vary greatly in size and location, mission and communities; all will be part of The Catalyst Fund Learning Cohort, made possible by the generous support of the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation. Embedded into the grants program, this series of in-person and virtual convenings will enable Catalyst Fund recipients to share ideas, perspectives, and challenges with the aim of achieving field-wide impact.

The first cohort meeting, the Catalyst Fund Forum, will take place on June 3 in Nashville, at the League’s National Conference (June 3-5). Facilitated by Liz Alsina, founder of Canarii Solutions, and directed by Karen Yair, the League’s Vice President, Knowledge, Learning, Leadership, the Forum will help build a sense of community within Catalyst Fund grantees and set a baseline understanding of what equity, diversity, and inclusion means in the context of the cohort experience.

The Catalyst Fund is 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 information about the League’s EDI Strategic Framework, is available from the League’s online EDI Resource Center.

2019 Catalyst Fund Grant Recipients 

Albany Symphony, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony, Handel and Haydn Society, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Nashville Symphony, New Jersey Youth Symphony, New World Symphony, Oakland Symphony, Oregon Symphony, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, and Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

About the Program  

The Catalyst Fund is a three-year pilot program of annual grants to adult and youth orchestras that aims to advance their understanding of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and to foster effective EDI practices. The Catalyst Fund is supported by a three-year, $2.1 million grant to the League from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Orchestras are required to use the funds to support the costs of retaining a skilled EDI practitioner to advance EDI learning objectives. Grantees will be linked into a learning community that serves as a platform to share their learning, including a dedicated online forum as well as remote and in-person convenings, made possible by the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation.

League member orchestras were eligible to apply for Catalyst Fund grants; applications were reviewed by an independent panel of experts.

About the League of American Orchestras 

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 2,000 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 only 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

About the DSO 

The most accessible orchestra on the planet, the acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra is known for trailblazing performances, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and a deep connection to its city. As a community-supported orchestra, generous giving by individuals and institutions at all levels drives the continued success and growth of the institution. Conductor Leonard Slatkin, who recently concluded an acclaimed decade-long tenure at the helm, now serves as the DSO’s Music Director Laureate, endowed by the Kresge Foundation. Celebrated conductor, arranger, and trumpeter Jeff Tyzik is the orchestra’s Principal Pops Conductor, while the outstanding trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard holds the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Jazz Creative Director Chair. Making its home at historic Orchestra Hall within the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, the DSO offers a performance schedule that features Classical, PNC Pops, Paradise Jazz, and Young People’s Family Concert series. One of America’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, Orchestra Hall will celebrate its centennial in 2019-2020. In addition, the DSO presents the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series in seven metro area venues, as well as a robust schedule of eclectic multi-genre performances in its mid-size venue The Cube, constructed and curated with support from Peter D. & Julie F. Cummings. A dedication to broadcast innovation began in 1922, when the DSO became the first orchestra in the world to present a radio broadcast and continues today with the free Live from Orchestra Hall webcast series, which also reaches tens of thousands of children with the Classroom Edition expansion. With growing attendance and unwavering philanthropic support from the people of Detroit, the DSO actively pursues a mission to embrace and inspire individuals, families, and communities through unsurpassed musical experiences.