Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids Program Receives $100,000 National Endowment for the Arts Grant 

Baltimore, Md. (April 17, 2014) – National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids™ program has received a $100,000 National Endowment for the Arts Art Works grant. The grant will support and sustain all initiatives of the OrchKids program including a full symphonic orchestra, choir classes, chamber music coaching, musicianship instruction and academic tutoring. This is the second consecutive year in which OrchKids has achieved the highest NEA Art Works grant in the category of Arts Education.

Under Music Director Marin Alsop’s artistic leadership and direction, this year-round program is designed to create social change and nurture promising futures for youth in Baltimore City’s neighborhoods. Modeled after Venezuela’s El Sistema, the music program that in 30 years has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, OrchKids provides music education, instruments and tutoring to Baltimore’s neediest youngsters at no cost. Since its start in 2008, the program has grown to more than 750 student participants, and is now in four elementary and one middle school in West and East Baltimore.

Students who have been in the OrchKids program for three years or more have demonstrated higher academic achievement and improved test scores (84% of students scored “proficient” or “advanced” on Math assessments, compared to 76% city-wide), improved attendance records for OrchKids (chronic absenteeism is down 52% since OrchKids launched in 2009), and decreased student withdrawals from Baltimore City Public Schools (OrchKids withdrawal rates were 0%, down from 6.9% in 2010).

On November 22, 2013, the program was a recipient of a 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Chosen from a pool of more than 350 nominations and 50 finalists, OrchKids was one of only 12 after-school and out-of-school programs across the country to receive the award, which was presented by First Lady Michelle Obama in the East Room of the White House. On November 28, 2013, the OrchKids performed side-by-side with the BSO and Music Director Marin Alsop at the Ravens’ Thanksgiving night home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancement of the livability of communities through the arts. The NEA received 1,515 eligible applications under the Art Works category, requesting more than $76 million in funding. Of those applications, 886 are recommended for grants for a total of $25.8 million.

For a complete listing of projects receiving Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at arts.gov.


About OrchKids
OrchKids™ is a year-round after-school music program designed to create social change and nurture promising futures for youth in Baltimore City neighborhoods. In partnership with the Baltimore City Public School system, OrchKids provides students with instruments, academic instruction, positive role models, field trips, daily healthy meals and more. Marking its sixth year in 2013-2014, OrchKids serves more than 750 students spanning pre-kindergarten through eighth grades across five Title I schools in West and East Baltimore.

Under Music Director Marin Alsop’s artistic leadership and direction, OrchKids is a cornerstone of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s efforts to expand the Orchestra’s relevance within the City’s broad and diverse community. In 2008, Maestra Alsop directed $100,000 of her MacArthur Genius Prize as seed money to launch the program, and remains an active participant as a mentor to the students, in joint public performances, and in advancing community and funding partnerships. Extraordinary sustaining support for the OrchKids program is provided by Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker.

OrchKids is inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema, the music program that in 30 years has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in that country’s most impoverished areas. Like El Sistema, OrchKids is intended primarily to address the most pervasive social challenges affecting underserved youth, using music to cultivate fundamental life skills such as self-expression, cooperative learning, discipline and creativity.

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