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Knoxville Symphony Orchestra to receive innovation grant from the League of American Orchestras’ American Orchestra’s Futures Fund

May 12, 2017

Future’s Fund Grant supports Knoxville Symphony’s innovative spirit and impact:
Music & Wellness research expands in NICU; collaborative new concert series develops

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra is one of just 21 orchestras from across the United States to receive a grant from the League of American Orchestras’ American Orchestras’ Futures Fund. The two-year innovation grant, in the amount of $80,000 over two years, is made possible by the generosity of the Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation, and will support the development of two KSO initiatives:

Expand the work being done in the KSO Music & Wellness program by conducting a study in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the University of Tennessee Medical Center to measure and document effects of live music by professional musicians in the NICU.

Create and implement a collaborative musical experience designed to defy and exceed symphony patrons’ expectations entitled “KSO UnStaged.”

“This grant will allow us to make significant forward movement in two areas the Knoxville Symphony organization feels are of great importance,” said KSO Executive Director Rachel Ford. “We have already seen positive results from our Music & Wellness program, and now we will begin to formally measure and record those results, specifically in the NICU, where our musicians are working with society’s most vulnerable population: babies. It’s a priority at the KSO to reach new audiences, and we are excited about developing an atypical live music experience.  As we experiment with the delivery of our art form and explore the many ways to experience it, we will be forging new collaborations and relationships throughout Knoxville. These funds will allow us to move our organization forward on multiple fronts and we are extremely grateful to the League and the Getty Foundation.”

“These twenty-one orchestras from across the country were chosen for their ability to influence a positive future for the art form,” said Jesse Rosen, President and CEO, League of American Orchestras. “They are making significant and exciting investments in organizational learning and innovation. We are grateful to the Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation for their visionary support of this new program.”

Expanded NICU research: KSO Music & Wellness

The KSO Music & Wellness Program was launched in 2003 to explore ways that live music benefits populations in healthcare settings. The nationally recognized, award winning program has evolved into robust partnerships with the University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC), bringing live music to chemotherapy treatment bays, the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU), and hospital waiting areas. To quantify the effects and to demonstrate evidence-based outcomes, the KSO will conduct research in collaboration with UTMC to document the effects of live music focused on UTMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The KSO plans to substantiate raw data from patient observation records such as indications that 72-79% of infants showed improved heart rates with live music intervention. The research initiative will span from 2017-2019.

New Collaborative Musical Experience: KSO UnStaged

In addition to the KSO’s three mainstage concert series (Masterworks, Chamber Classics, Pops), two additional KSO series feature smaller ensembles that perform chamber music in more intimate venues, through the Concertmaster Series held at the Knoxville Museum of Art and the Q Series held at the Square Room. The KSO proposes going one step further in bending our patrons’ expectations by creating musical experiences that will refresh and surprise each ticket holder. This series entitled “KSO UnStaged” will feature collaborations and partnerships with local artists, new music, popular music fusions, core repertoire presented in a new way, visual components, and crowd participation. “KSO UnStaged” will also promote a social atmosphere to attract new concert-goers and feature various aspects of the community by taking place in non-traditional venues such as partial outdoor spaces, airplane hangars, yoga studios, breweries and glass-blowing art studios. The KSO plans to implement two musical experiences in the 2017-2018 season and three musical experiences in the 2018-2019 season.

About the American Orchestra’s Future’s Fund

The $4.5 million American Orchestras’ Future Fund program will include another round of two-year grants for small- and medium-budget orchestras, to be announced in 2018. The initiatives funded include a wide range of innovation efforts, from community and neighborhood residencies, programs redefining the concert experience, and projects aimed at increasing audience diversity, to piloting new organizational practices, fruitful artistic collaborations, and the use of new technologies within the concert hall.

For this first round, U.S.-based large- and medium-budget orchestras that are members of the League of American Orchestras were eligible to apply. An independent review panel selected the orchestras based on criteria including the organization’s capacity to respond and adapt to opportunities and changed circumstances, and the potential for artistic, internal, community, public value, and field-wide impact. The program and evaluation consultants for the American Orchestras’ Futures Fund are, respectively, Sarah Lutman (Lutman & Associates) and Dr. Dennie Palmer Wolf (WolfBrown).

About the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra

Established in 1935, and now under the leadership of Music Director Aram Demirjian, the KSO has contributed to the cultural life in East Tennessee continuously for 80 years, providing excellence in musical and educational programs. The Orchestra consists of 80 professional musicians and performs more than 300 programs throughout the region each season, reaching audiences of more than 200,000 people. The KSO performs in traditional venues such as the Tennessee Theatre, Bijou Theatre and the Civic Auditorium as well as non-traditional places like hospitals, schools, city parks and churches.  For more information regarding the KSO, please visit or call 865-291-3310.

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 symphonies 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