NEA grant awarded to Walla Walla Symphony

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A community’s right to have access to music lights a fire in Leah Wilson-Velasco’s heart.

The chief executive officer of the Walla Walla Symphony is adamant — children and their folks need to experience high-quality music played exceptionally in real life.

This week, the National Endowment for the Arts agreed, awarding the symphony $10,000 to support concerts and expanded family and educational programming through the youth and adult symphonies and guest artists, Wilson-Velasco said.

The grant, a first for the symphony here, is “quite a feather in the cap,” the she said. “This is a big deal to be competing with organizations across the country.”

The NEA received 393 applications — 153 were approved — for nearly $4 million for its “Challenge America Fast Track” grants, according to a press release. The grants are intended to support small to mid-size organizations in getting art to populations that might not otherwise experience the arts in full fashion.

The Walla Walla Symphony will fulfill the NEA’s mandate with a four-pronged approach, including adding an extra family concert to the season, pairing the adult and youth symphonies in a special concert and bringing the chamber music group Project Trio here, Wilson-Velasco said.

This represents the first time the organization has sought and received a grant outside of local funding, she believes. The Walla Walla Symphony is the oldest continuously-operating symphony west of the Mississippi and is in its 106th season.

“It’s unbelievably exciting to me,” Wilson-Velasco said. “It’s something I take a lot of pride in.”

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