Now in its 91th season, the Grand Rapids Symphony (GRS) is a highly acclaimed orchestra that presents more than 400 performances annually, reaching a diverse audience of more than 200,000 concertgoers from 14 West Michigan counties. Nearly half of those who attend are students, senior citizens, veterans, low-income community members, and people with disabilities who participate through Gateway to Music, an extensive matrix of education and access programs. The GRS is a major source of civic pride throughout Michigan, and enjoys national recognition as well. On April 20, 2018, nearly a thousand enthusiastic GRS patrons accompanied the orchestra and Symphony Chorus to New York City for a concert at Carnegie Hall. The event drew a near-capacity audience and garnered widespread critical acclaim for the quality of the orchestra as well as the creative programming of Music Director Marcelo Lehninger. The New York trip also resulted in net-positive financial results for the organization.
The traditional Grand Rapids Symphony season features 10 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical program pairs, presented at DeVos Performance Hall. The Fox Motors Pops series is comprised of six programs, presented at DeVos Hall on Friday and Saturday evenings. The orchestra also offers other series for chamber music, movies and special events.
Through Gateway to Music, the Grand Rapids Symphony provides robust music education and access programs that reach nearly 90,000 participants annually. Since 1944, the GRS has provided concert experiences for more than 15,000 students each year as part of the Fifth Grade Concerts series. The 2020/2021 season marks the 13th anniversary of the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses and the 60th anniversary of the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony. In schools across the region, Gateway to Music programs serve students and engage the wider community through 17 varied musical offerings, including Lollipops Concerts, Mosaic Scholarships, and artist-in-residence programs designed to engage audiences of all ages.
The Grand Rapids Symphony’s Music for Health program sends musicians into area hospitals with the goal of enhancing wellness through live music. The program was honored in June 2017 when its founder and GRS violinist Diane McElfish Helle was awarded the Ford Musician Award for Excellence in Community Service by the League of American Orchestras. Additional access initiatives include Symphony Scorecard and Free for Families, both of which strive to eliminate financial barriers to concert experiences and welcome many first-time concertgoers each season.
The Grand Rapids Symphony has enjoyed celebrated successes in recording and has produced 12 recordings, including an album of new music by British composer Philip Sawyers released in 2011. The Orchestra’s 2007 recording featuring jazz harpist Deborah Henson-Conant earned a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Crossover Album. A live performance of Verdi’s Requiem early in Marcelo Lehninger’s tenure brought high praise and enthusiasm from audience and critics alike.
The Grand Rapids Symphony is governed by a 50-member Board of Directors. President and CEO Mary Tuuk leads an administrative staff of approximately 25 and manages a $10 million budget. Marcelo Lehninger is in his fifth season as Music Director. Lehninger’s distinguished artistic team includes Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt, Associate Conductor John Varineau, Chorus Director Pearl Shangkuan, and Youth Chorus Co-Directors Sean and Leah Ivory. The Grand Rapids Symphony, with 80 professional musicians, has been welcomed as the newest member of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM).
The Orchestra’s Affiliated Organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses, and the Grand Rapids Bach Festival. Julian Wachner is Artistic Director of the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival. The Grand Rapids Symphony also provides the orchestra for Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet.
About Grand Rapids
Located 178 miles northeast of Chicago and 170 miles northwest of Detroit, Grand Rapids is Michigan’s second-largest city, with a metropolitan population of 1.3 million. The city is a national leader in civic-minded philanthropy, widely recognized for strong not-for-profit organizations and public-private partnerships that improve overall quality of life. Generous community support makes Grand Rapids a vibrant and exciting city with a low cost of living, affordable housing, quality educational opportunities, and short commutes.
In recent years, Grand Rapids has been listed by Forbes among the top “15 US Cities’ Emerging Downtowns” and named “Best City for Raising a Family.” The Wall Street Journal identified Grand Rapids as “2nd Best Place to Live in the US,” citing its schools and strong economy. In recommending travel destinations, Expedia calls Grand Rapids “one of America’s Super Cool Cities.” In addition to a superb symphony orchestra, Grand Rapids boasts a thriving arts culture with world-class museums and cultural events.
The Grand Rapids community is home to people of every race, creed, color, religion, and national origin, all of whom have all contributed their own unique colors and brush strokes to the canvas of Grand Rapids, creating a rich, vibrant community that emphasizes collaboration while honoring diversity. It’s an environment that makes every visitor feel welcome.
Grand Rapids Symphony during COVID-19
Since early 2020, the Grand Rapids Symphony has provided a mixture of limited-capacity programming to serve its loyal audiences. The Symphony is currently producing Pathwaves, a dynamic and innovative season of virtual concerts delivered via livestream from Van Andel Arena. The Symphony will return to DeVos Performance Hall in 2021.
The Vice President of Development joins the VP and General Manager, VP of Marketing and Communications, and VP of Finance and Administration as a member of the senior management team that reports to the President and CEO. The VP of Development plans and executes a comprehensive development program to ensure that the Grand Rapids Symphony achieves it annual and long-term goals for contributed income from all sources. The VP ensures that the highest standards of professionalism and excellence are maintained in the execution of all Grand Rapids Symphony development activities.
The Vice President of Development works closely with the President and CEO and Board leadership in identifying, cultivating, and soliciting donors and providing excellent stewardship for gifts. The VP builds relationships with donors to secure and sustain their gifts. The VP creates opportunities to match subscribers’ and other stakeholders’ interests with organizational needs and programs. The VP provides guidance and support to the fundraising efforts of the Board and provides staff support to the Board’s Nominating and Governance Committee. The VP also works closely with the Vice President of Marketing and Communications to ensure a graduated patron/donor continuum of experience for patrons/donors.
The Vice President of Development leads, inspires, and motivates a team of five to reach and exceed annual development goals of $4.5 to $5 million, approximately 50% of the Symphony’s annual budget. The VP plays a significant role in major gift development and oversees development from corporations, foundations, individuals, planned giving, and special events. The VP ensures that the needed systems and processes are in place for recording, acknowledging, and reporting gifts and complying with grant requirements, donor expectations, audit requirements and government regulations. The VP also collaborates closely with the Vice President of Finance and Administration to achieve needed budget outcomes and appropriate cash management planning.
The Vice President of Development is an integral part of the leadership team that works with the President and CEO to ensure that the Board, musicians, and staff of the Grand Rapids Symphony are fully aligned around vision, mission, and values in serving their art and their community. The VP is an active participant in the arts, culture, and community of greater Grand Rapids.
The ideal candidate will be seasoned professional who combines a proven record of success in achieving development goals with deep personal interest and enthusiasm for symphony orchestras and the music they play. Experience as a development officer or senior executive with a professional orchestra, although not required, will be considered an asset.
The successful candidate will be a strategic thinker with excellent planning and organizational skills. The candidate will be able to speak and write persuasively about the importance of symphony orchestras in general and the Grand Rapid Symphony in particular. The candidate will be a good listener with a genuine interest in the passions, ideas, and accomplishments of the Orchestra’s current and potential stakeholders.
The ideal candidate will be a strong team builder and a collaborative team player. The candidate will have excellent personnel management and supervisory skills. The candidate will have the demonstrated ability to work effectively with a volunteer Board and Board committees. The candidate will be skilled and experienced in working with diverse community populations and organizations and have a strong commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion as core values of the Grand Rapids Symphony.
The successful candidate will be an experienced major gifts officer with the demonstrated ability to build, nurture, and sustain relationships that match funding opportunities with the interests of individual donors. The candidate will have a deep respect for philanthropy and the leadership skills to foster and maintain an environment that reflects that respect throughout the staff.
The successful candidate will be creative, curious, flexible, and persistent. The candidate will be a person of the highest integrity and ethical standards. The candidate will be able to accept a work schedule that includes concerts and events on evenings and weekends. The successful candidate will welcome the opportunity to become an active member of the Grand Rapids community.
Compensation, including benefits, is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience.
The Grand Rapids Symphony is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion in all facets of the organization and welcomes recommendations, nominations, and applications from all qualified candidates.
Please prepare a cover letter that describes your specific interest in the Grand Rapids Symphony and outlines your qualifications for the position. Please submit with a resume, salary requirements, and contact information for at least three professional references. Electronic submissions are requested. All applications will be treated as confidential and references will not be contacted without the candidate’s knowledge and agreement.
Please send materials to:
Grand Rapids Symphony – Vice President for Development
Please submit material in Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word format
Additional Salary Information: Compensation, including benefits, is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience.
About Grand Rapids Symphony
Formed in 1998, the Catherine French Group works with symphony orchestras, opera companies, performing arts presenters, music festivals, schools of music, and other music and arts organizations as they recruit chief executives, senior management, and artistic personnel. The Catherine French Group is based in Washington, DC. Catherine French is founder and principal. Musician, administrator, and educator Christopher Wingert joined CFG in 2005 and is Managing Director. Henry Fogel, former CEO of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and former Dean of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, collaborates on projects that have a special focus on music directors and artistic directors.
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