MSO receives Hearst Foundation grant for music education

Joining ranks with the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Monterey Jazz Festival and the National Gallery of Art, the Mobile Symphony received a $40,000 grant from The Hearst Foundation to support and expand the MSO’s music education programs.

Gregg Gustafson, chief executive officer with the Mobile Symphony said the award from a national foundation with such significant resources “speaks volumes” about the quality of programming and outreach provided by the MSO’s education programs.

“Ligia Cravo, senior program officer for The Hearst Foundation, told me that it was particularly noteworthy in these economic times that the Foundation awarded this grant to the MSO, as we are new to the roster of organizations they fund,” Gustafson said. “In 2011 the Hearst Foundation awarded $11.6 million to arts and culture organizations. It is gratifying that a major, national foundation has recognized the outstanding work our teachers are doing throughout south Alabama.”

Erin Horan, director of education for the Mobile Symphony, said the Symphony’s music education programs began in 2002 to fulfill the MSO’s mission to offer quality music education programs to local students. Since 2002 the program has grown from serving four schools to 14, and serves more than 12,000 students each year.

Approximately 23 percent of Mobile Symphony’s budget is dedicated to its education program, Gustafson added, compared to an industry standard of five percent.

“There is a strong need in Mobile and Baldwin counties for music education programs in the schools,” Horan said. “Due to funding limitations, most public school elementary students only receive 30-40 minutes of music per week for half the school year. And there are no public school orchestra programs at all in southern Alabama. With grants such as this one, coupled with the local support we receive, the Mobile Symphony is able to supplement school music programs and meet a critical need in our community by providing students with a balanced education that includes the arts.”

Mobile Symphony’s education programs include the following:

  • Preludes provides general music instruction to 1st and 2nd grade students for 25 weeks each year.
  • Take Note! preconcert lectures give concertgoers the opportunity to learn the history behind the music.
  • Strings Classes are group violin, viola and cello lessons for students in grades 3-8.
  • String Academy is an intermediate string orchestra for students in grades 6-9.
  • Mobile Symphony Youth Orchestra offers young instrumental musicians throughout the Gulf Coast community an opportunity to perform in a full orchestra.
  • Bay Area Strings Community Orchestra is a community string orchestra open to any adult string player in our community.
  • Chamberfest is an annual string chamber music workshop open to students of all ages.
  • Big Red Ticket, a student ticket program, allows any student K-12 to attend a Sunday MSO Classics performance for free with their parent.
  • Preludes instructors work with classroom teachers to integrate music into their daily curriculum.

For more information about the Mobile Symphony’s education programs, call 432-2010, or visit us online at

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