photo credit: @alyssasieb/nappy

A new gift of $2.1 million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will support the League of American Orchestras’ next phase of their Catalyst Fund: an incubator program to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion practices in American orchestras. The new grant follows the receipt in 2019 of $2.1 million from the Mellon Foundation to fund a three-year pilot program that provided grants to 49 orchestras.

The new Catalyst Incubator program, modeled after incubators in the tech sector, will provide 20 orchestras with:

  • Three years of grant support totaling $75,000, enabling them to work with an EDI consultant to create a plan and conduct activities toward achieving a vision of a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive organizational culture

  • A peer learning community both online and via in-person discussion forums, to help orchestras brainstorm, strategize, and share progress and challenges with others working to improve the culture at their organizations using an EDI lens

  • Sequenced curricular modules to support orchestras in building their capacity to create and sustain an organizational cultural that facilitates the change they seek

  • Mentorship and guidance from convening faculty and guests, League staff, and other EDI experts

League member orchestras who meet the eligibility requirements will have until October 22, 2021 to apply for The Catalyst Incubator program. Grant awards will be announced in December of 2021. Further details and complete application information can be accessed on the League’s website.

The Catalyst Fund is also supported by the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation. According to the League, it was created in response to feedback from member orchestras and partners. The pilot program provided annual grants to orchestras of $12,000 to $25,000 for hiring professional EDI consultants to provide education and training and organizational audits and plans, and to conduct facilitation activities designed to help orchestras build more equitable, diverse, and inclusive organizational cultures. The program provided 78 grant awards to 49 orchestras in its first round.

Founded in 1942, the League of American Orchestras links a national network of more than 1,800 organizations and individuals across North America, from major symphony orchestras to community groups, summer festivals, youth ensembles, conservatories, libraries, and businesses serving orchestras and individuals who champion symphonic music, providing knowledge, advocacy, research, and leadership advancement.

Two major 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, served to inform and stimulate action in the classical music industry. One result was the launch in April 2018 of the National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS): a partnership of the League, The Sphinx Organization, and the New World Symphony. NAAS is a national initiative that offers Black and Latinx musicians a combination of mentoring, audition preparation, and audition travel stipends.