The Ford Musician Awards for Excellence in Community Service

A Program of the League of American Orchestras
Made Possible by

new ford

2019 Awardees

The five musicians will receive their awards at the League of American Orchestras’ Conference Luncheon, June 4 at 12:45 p.m., and discuss their work at Musicians Transforming Communities, an elective session for Conference delegates on June 4 at 9:00 a.m. Videos of the musicians in action will be posted on the League’s website after the Conference.

See the 2019 Ford Musician Awardees in action here.


Victoria Griswold, Violin
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

Teddy Bear Series, introducing young children to orchestral instruments through story, live music, and movement

Since 2015, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Violinist Victoria Griswold has written the programs for the ISO’s Teddy Bear Series, which provides thousands of young children access to free music programs at local libraries, hospitals, and preschools. Two of her Teddy Bear programs have been turned into children’s books through the Macy’s Gives program. The program integrates live music, storytelling, and age-appropriate movement for children ages 3-6, but typical audiences include infants through age 8.

“It is magical to see a room full of children hearing musical instruments for the first time and it feels wonderful that these programs are reaching the general public in a way that is welcoming and inclusive.” – Victoria Griswold



Jeff Handley, Principal Percussion
Chicago Sinfonietta

Audience Matters and SEED, in-school residency programs for students from underserved communities

Principal Percussionist and Education/Outreach Program Director with Chicago Sinfonietta and Fulcrum Point New Music Project, Jeff Handley created two programs with the goals of exposing students to classical music. Both programs model diversity through the musicians sent to the classrooms, with the goal of preparing young musicians to move forward to college and auditions. Audience Matters is a six-week, in-school residency program for 4-6 grades that provides music education and engagement to students in underserved communities; SEED provides intense small group instruction by Chicago Sinfonietta musicians for high school student musicians in chamber-sized ensembles.

“If we can help these students overcome some of the incredible challenges they face by helping them to see what they are capable of, who could ask for more rewarding work?” – Jeff Handley



Rebecca Patterson, Principal Cello
New Haven Symphony Orchestra

NHSO Harmony Fellowship Quartet / Recording Composition Class, for students from underrepresented communities

Rebecca Patterson is one of two New Haven Symphony Orchestra musicians and two student Fellows from underrepresented communities in the NHSO Harmony Quartet. The Quartet implemented the Recording Composition Class, working with a high school music class for a complete school year to facilitate the creation of new works merging classical and hip-hop traditions. The students put their own poems and lyrics to songs performed by the string quartet, and which were then recorded. This program created a lasting positive impact on the students well beyond the initial work in the classroom, influencing their self-esteem, social circles, mental focus and studies, and direction in life.

“If creating music has planted the seeds of imagination, perseverance, and the belief in oneself that is needed to overcome the many hurdles and extreme challenges encountered in life, then who knows what positive ripples may ensue down the road.” – Rebecca Patterson



Donna Parkes, Principal Trombone
Louisville Orchestra

Teaching children at the Heuser Hearing Institute with hearing and speech impairment skills such as singing, clapping with rhythm, and dancing. 

Introducing the wonder of sound and music to hearing- and speech-impaired children, and working with a team that includes hearing specialists, teachers, musicians, and administrators, Donna Parkes has been bringing the joy of music to dozens of youngsters and their families for eleven seasons. Taken from the National Standards of Music Education for pre-school and early Childhood, the program’s goals include singing and playing instruments; creating music; responding to music; and understanding music.

“Through our music, we have this incredible tool to share our art with anyone. We can form relationships that cross many barriers, and this gives me the chance to share my music with a true purpose.” – Donna Parkes


youngRebecca Young, Associate Principal Viola
New York Philharmonic

Very Young People’s Concerts

Rebecca Young was first introduced to music at the age of two when her parents took her to the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts led by Leonard Bernstein. Today, she is the host of the Philharmonic’s popular Very Young Peoples Concerts, intimate chamber music concerts where she has tap-danced, played drums, ridden a scooter around the stage, and even sung Gilbert & Sullivan. She has expanded the program’s reach to touch outlying areas, including the New York’s outer boroughs and even overseas.

“To share classical music with young children, people with special needs, and countless others is both a gift we give and something from which we receive so much.” - Rebecca Young

Photo credits: Victoria Griswold (Greg Whitaker); Jeff Handley (Chicago Sinfonietta); Rebecca Patterson (Lisa-Marie Mazzucco); Donna Parkes (Sam English); Rebecca Young (Chris Lee)

2018 Awardees

The musicians were presented with their awards at the League of American Orchestras’ National Conference in Chicago and discussed their work at an elective session for Conference delegates. Read the press release here

See videos of the 2018 musicians in action.



Jeffrey Barker
Associate Principal Flute
Seattle Symphony

Lullaby Project, Sensory Friendly Concerts, Simple Gifts Initiative, among others

Jeffrey has collaborated on developing Sensory-Friendly Concerts, coached sectionals for side-by-side performances with local high schools, and actively supported the Seattle Symphony’s Lullaby Project and Simple Gifts initiatives, which empower individuals experiencing homelessness to connect with their creativity. Jeffrey has immersed himself in addressing homelessness in Seattle. In addition to his work with the Seattle Symphony, he also advocates on issues of homelessness by speaking publicly and helping partner organization Mary’s Place raise money for shelters.


John R. Beck
Principal Percussionist
Winston-Salem Symphony

HealthRHYTHMS drumming with cancer and pediatric behavioral health patients; collaborative research study with physicians on the benefits of interactive group drumming

John’s work has had a broad reach, covering hospitals, schools, and senior centers, serving both children and adults. His current efforts are focused on adult stem cell transplant recipients: both the patients and their families experience the therapeutic benefits of drumming as an aid in healing and to mitigate stress, anxiety, and pain. His work has a clinical component: collaborating with an oncologist who is a symphony board member to study the psychological and physiological impact of participation in group drumming. With the support of the orchestra, a concert series was devoted to cancer awareness featuring commissioned music dedicated to and performed by people living with cancer.

chaffeeJody Chaffee
Community Engagement Director, Flute
Firelands Symphony Orchestra

Providing in-school access to quality music programs for students in rural communities

“Miss Jody,” as she’s known to her students, is a licensed music education instructor who has been working with students in “music deprived” communities in the Firelands area since 2012. Personally providing over 5,000 children in mainly rural communities access to music in this year alone, she has created engaging educational programs for pre-k through third grade students, introductory year band and orchestra students, and band students in grades 5-12. These programs are designed to instill a desire for life-long learning of music and the arts, and to create a new generation of music lovers.


Erin Hannigan
Principal Oboe
Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Concerts for Kindness, DSO’s Young Strings program, DSO Teen Council

For six years, Erin’s annual Concert for Kindness events have demonstrated the interaction of the arts, education, and civic causes. Supported by the DSO’s Principal Grant Program, Concert for Kindness recognizes the value and talent of high school and college-aged visual artists and musicians, who develop and produce this annual benefit concert raising funds for Operation Kindness, the oldest no-kill animal shelter in North Texas. The event features live music, visual art, and photography, with participation by young musicians and rescue animals. Students from the DSO’s Young Strings program and Teen Council are also involved, providing pre-concert musical entertainment and serving as ushers and volunteers.

ramirezJuan R. Ramírez Hernández

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Musicians in Schools, Musicians in Communities, and Talent Development Program, among others

Over a 45-year time period, Juan has created a series of music programs and organizations with the aim of connecting with Latino young people and adults. A committed performer, composer, teacher, mentor, and community leader, he has brought music into the lives of students who might not have access to instruments and training, and has engaged many constituencies on stage, in high schools and libraries, and at community events, both local and international. He has a long history of working with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s education and community engagement programs, and has also formed his own performing arts organizations, teaching, conducting, leading workshops, and performing.

Photo credits: Jeffrey Barker (Brad Kevelin); John Beck (Laurie Beck Photography); Jody Chaffee (ML Photography); Erin Hannigan (Teresa Berg Photography); Juan Ramírez (Teresa Penley-Sheppard)


2017 Awardees

The musicians were presented with their awards at the League of American Orchestras’ 72nd National Conference in Detroit, June 6-8, and discussed their work at an elective session for Conference delegates. Read the press announcement and an article in Symphony magazine.

See videos of the 2017 musicians in action.


Mark Dix
The Phoenix Symphony

Photo Credit: The Phoenix Symphony                  


Michael Gordon
Principal Flute
Kansas City Symphony

Photo Credit: David Bickley       


Diane McElfish Helle
Grand Rapids Symphony 

Photo Credit: Terry Johnston                   



Eunsoon Lee-Corliss
Assistant Principal Violist
Knoxville Symphony Orchestra

Photo Credit: Knoxville Symphony


Peter Zlotnick
Education Manager/Principal Timpani
Greensboro Symphony Orchestra

Photo Credit: Tanya Odom



2016 Awardees

Five exemplary orchestra musicians were presented with the inaugural Ford Musician Awards for Excellence in Community Service at the League’s National Conference in Baltimore on June 10, 2016. Read the press announcement and an article in Symphony magazine.

Check out the webinar presentation, which features all five awardees and is moderated by Eric Booth, president, Everyday Arts, Inc. 


Penny Anderson Brill
Michael & Carol Bleier Chair
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PA)                                                            

Photo Credit: Alicia Dal Lago              


Shannon Orme
Bass Clarinet
Detroit Symphony Orchestra (MI)

Photo Credit: Cybelle Codish


Jeff Paul
Principal Oboist
South Dakota Symphony Orchestra (SD)

Photo Credit: Jeff Paul


Brian Prechtl
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (MD)

Photo Courtesy of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra


Beth Vandervennet
Oakland Symphony


Photo Credit: Seano Whitecloud



About the Ford Musician Awards for Excellence in Community Service:

Now in its fourth year, the League’s Ford Musician Awards program, made possible by the generous support of Ford Motor Company Fund, honors and celebrates professional orchestra musicians who provide exemplary and meaningful service in their communities and make a significant impact through education and community engagement.

This is the League's second partnership project with Ford Motor Company Fund, which was the title sponsor of Ford Made in America, the largest commissioning consortium in the country's history.





Questions? Contact James Barry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.