Asheville Symphony receives $610,000 for Educational Initiative

Press release

Asheville Symphony receives $610,000 for Educational Initiative

The Asheville Symphony Orchestra has received a $610,000 gift to fund a three-year after-school pilot program that will use music education as a tool to teach life skills to school-aged children in underserved populations in the city of Asheville.

Funded by a gift from the Waterbury, Conn.-based Leever Foundation, the new program will be known as MusicWorks!. Youth participants in MusicWorks! will have the opportunity to gain crucial skills and values including academic achievement, self-expression, teamwork, personal responsibility, and engagement in their community.

“Asheville has a great symphony, a vibrant community that supports arts and culture, and a community that really cares about its children,” said Tom Leever of the Leever Foundation, which also funded Bravo Waterbury, another El Sistema inspired program that has been operating successfully in Waterbury for two years. “The MusicWorks! Program closely follows the Leever Foundation mission, which is to create opportunities for children to fulfill their potential and become productive members of society.”

The program includes homework help, healthy snacks, and a broad approach to music through theory, movement, voice, and instruments. MusicWorks! will focus on children with limited financial resources and will be offered to the participants on a sliding fee scale that is designed to fit each family’s financial situation.

MusicWorks! will launch this fall at Hall Fletcher Elementary in Asheville. The site selection committee considered variables including end-of-grade test scores, free- and reduced-lunch percentages, facilities, and school and parent leadership.

“Hall Fletcher has a unique combination of factors that make the school a good fit for MusicWorks! on every level,” said Tara Scholtz, who is on the MusicWorks! steering committee and is a senior program officer at The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. “We were particularly drawn to it as it transitions to a year-round school.”

The ASO is in the process of hiring a MusicWorks! program director.

MusicWorks! is patterned after the style of education programs known as El Sistema, which was founded 38 years ago in Caracas, Venezuela. More than 500,000 of Venezuela’s most vulnerable children are now learning in El Sistema. The National Alliance of El Sistema advocates and supports more than 40 El Sistema-inspired programs in the United States. Notable El Sistema alumni include Los Angeles Philharmonic music director Gustavo Dudamel, Berlin Philharmonic bassist Edicson Ruiz, and the world-renowned Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. For more information about El Sistema, go to

“We’re excited to bring an El Sistema-inspired program to Asheville and link ourselves to the impact that similar programs have had in other communities,” said David Whitehill, executive director of the Asheville Symphony. “This program will strengthen our ties to the community of Asheville but more importantly, help children in our community increase their chances for success.”

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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