The Lansing Symphony Orchestra: A Greater Lansing tradition

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When thinking about the term, nonprofit organization, terms like philanthropy, humanitarianism and compassion typically come with it. Large organizations like The Red Cross or United Way, for example, are commonplace, but many are surprised to find out that community arts and cultural organizations are nonprofits, and they are doing the same type of work as the big guys, only with a more focused audience – your community.

One such organization is the Lansing Symphony Orchestra (LSO). This nonprofit has been in the greater Lansing region since 1929; its mission: to enrich lives through music and education outreach. If that doesn’t sound like philanthropy, what does?

LSO has provided live music experiences for decades, and one of the main goals, according to symphony Executive Director, Courtney Millbrook, is to give the community access to this art form.

“We’re really fortunate to be located within a community that appreciates our education programs,” she said.

Millbrook noted that the LSO partners with local school programs to create a community that’s enriched in music and music education.

“It’s great to have a local orchestra that does as much ours,” she said. “Students can work with the orchestra, which is a great opportunity to be among professionals in the field.”

There have been many success stories of musicians here in greater Lansing, but Millbrook noted that one, in particular, Tanya Ell, a cellist, is being celebrated next month with a homecoming concert on Jan. 7.

Ell grew up with both parents as musicians in the LSO; her father played clarinet and her mother played cello. She was trained in the Suzuki program on cello from a very young age, went on to Juilliard for her undergrad and attended the Cleveland Institute of Music for her masters.

“I’m really excited, as you can imagine,” said Ell. “It means a great deal to me to be able to come home and perform with an orchestra I grew up listening to. It’s really an honor.”

Success stories like this are no stranger to LSO. Millbrook spoke on the many school programs LSO participates in and noted that exposing children to classical and live music at an early age is the goal of the entire organization.

“I realize that they probably won’t be subscribers to the orchestra when they’re 15 years old,” said Millbrook. “But, if we can continue fostering an appreciation for our music, that’s important to us.”

The orchestra puts on nine major shows per year, not including many smaller community events. In addition, LSO is one of the only community orchestras that has a full 17 piece jazz band.

“I just want to get across to people to come visit LSO,” said Millbrook. “There are some great opportunities. Come support the arts in your community! There’s something for everyone.”


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Megan Martin

Megan Martin is a Communications Specialist at M3 group and a graduate of Calvin College in Grand Rapids. She is a foodie, a lover of art and tea and everything outdoorsy.

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