Albany Symphony awarded $10,000 NEA grant

Jan 12, 2016

By Jim Hendricks, Albany Herald

ALBANY — The Albany Symphony Orchestra has gotten a financial boost to expand the impact of its April concert, which will feature Native American flutist Joseph FireCrow, through the awarding of a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts.

The grant will help fund what will now be a week-long visit by FireCrow that will include community outreach at Albany area schools and an appearance at Chehaw’s annual Native American Cultural Festival conducted in April.

“We are really pleased,” Mari Wright, executive director of the Albany Symphony, said Monday. “We are really, really excited.

“This was a concert we were going to have last year and we rescheduled it. It just goes to show that things happen for a reason sometimes.”

A member of the Cheyenne Nation, FireCrow will narrate, play, and sing Jim Cockey’s “The Gift of the Elk: A Suite for Native American Suite,” a symphonic composition based on a Cheyenne myth, as guest performer with the symphony. That concert, the finale of the 2015-16 season, is set for 7:30 p.m. April 9 at the Albany Municipal Auditorium, 200 N. Jackson St.

“The arts are part of our everyday lives – no matter who you are or where you live – they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society,” NEA Chairman Jane Chu said in a statement released by the ASO. “Supporting projects like the one from the Albany Symphony offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”

The grant will help the symphony association bring FireCrow in earlier than normal for a guest performer, which will enable him to conduct a couple of sessions with local schools and to appear at the Chehaw festival. “This grant is allowing us to do that,” Wright said.

The award through the NEA’s Challenge America program is extremely competitive, symphony Music Director Claire Fox Hillard noted Monday.

“It’s based on aspects such as are you engaging the community, are you partnering with the community, are you bringing something to the community that you ordinarily wouldn’t get to do,” Hillard said. “We’re honored to get it.”

Symphony officials had hoped to do something similar last year, but were unable to work out the logistics. Ultimately, they decided to reschedule FireCrow’s appearance for this season.

“We wanted to expand it (FireCrow’s visit),” Hillard said. “We wanted to do it the week of the Native American Festival. We just took a deep breath and regrouped and it came out better.

“He’s going to be making an appearance at the festival. By doing all the collaboration, we can maximize it.”

The ASO grant was part of $27.6 million in funding for Fiscal year 2016 that was awarded by the NEA in December. In a half-century, the NEA has awarded more than $5 billion.

Wright said this will be the first partnership with Chehaw. She said symphony officials plan to bring more innovation like the Chehaw collaboration to the community in the ASO’s 2016-17 season.

The April 9 concert will be preceded at 6:30 p.m. with pre-concert notes, an informal discussion that Hillard, the symphony conductor, and FireCrow will have with audience members. Tickets for the symphony concert, titled “The Gift of the Elk,” range from $15 (students) to $40 and can be purchased at the symphony’s website, Contact the ASO at (229) 430-8933.


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