MUSKEGON, MI, April 5, 2020 — As a result of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order to extend the closure of Michigan’s K-12 schools through the end of the school year, West Michigan Symphony (WMS) has cancelled the live orchestra concerts that mark the culmination of the 2019-2020 Link Up program, Executive Director Andy Buelow announced today. WMS is a longstanding participant in Link Up, the internationally-acclaimed music education program provided by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.
“We are incredibly grateful to our donors, whose support enabled us to provide Link Up in these classrooms throughout the school year,” stated Buelow. “We deeply regret having to cancel the culminating concerts. At the same time, we fully support the Governor’s decision; the health and safety of the students is the most important priority.”
Director of Education Karen Vander Zanden stated: “We applaud the excellent work the students and teachers have put into the program this season—and we share their disappointment. Although nothing can replace attending the live symphony, we are preparing a play-along video—in effect, our own virtual Link Up mini-performance. Students will be able to watch our video recording and play along on their recorders from home.”
WMS was a pioneering orchestra in joining Link Up in 2003, when Carnegie Hall first offered it to orchestras outside the New York City region. Today it is one of 100 organizations worldwide chosen for this program. Nearly 60,000 West Michigan students have participated in the past 16 seasons.
Launched last September, Link Up 2019-2020 included more than 50 schools from six counties, including Muskegon, Kent, Mason, Newaygo, Oceana, and Ottawa. Virtually every elementary school in the Muskegon Area Intermediate School Districts participates in the program, which WMS provides free. Since September, students have been learning to read music and play the recorder, have been introduced to the orchestra and its instruments, and have listened to classical music as part of their weekly curriculum. Music Mentors, WMS musicians that visit the classrooms to support Link Up beginner studies, made most of their visits before schools closed in March.
Link Up is funded by corporate support from Arconic, Comerica Bank, DTE Energy, 5/3 Bank, Gerber, L3 Harris, Mercy Health, and Sand Products; the community foundations of Grand Haven, Fremont, Muskegon County and Sparta; the Women’s Division Chamber, and the Samuel L. Westerman Foundation; and individual donors including Mike & Kay Olthoff, Mary Payne and Mary Price.