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The Mobile Symphony Receives NEA Grant for Major Premiere in Mobile This Fall

The Mobile Symphony Orchestra (MSO) has been awarded a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support the U.S. premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Mandolin Concerto with soloist Avi Avital, November 13-14, 2021, following the world premiere by the Munich Philharmonic.

This international musical event will be the centerpiece of MSO’s 2021-2022 season and is a joint commission by the Munich Philharmonic, the MSO and the Chicago Philharmonic, who will perform the Midwest premiere. MSO’s participation in the commission was made possible by the MSO Symphonic Innovations Fund, launched by an anonymous donor in 2018 to support performing and commissioning new works.

An American composer of contemporary classical music, Jennifer Higdon is one of the world’s top living composers. She received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for her violin concerto and three Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Classical Composition in 2010, 2018 and 2020. Avi Avital, an internationally renowned artist, is the first mandolin soloist to be nominated for a classical Grammy.

Higdon’s concerto displays Avital’s unique ability to make his unusual instrument come alive for audiences, letting them experience new sounds.

As Higdon was writing the concerto, COVID hit and altered life and music across the globe. “To help process my own feelings,” Higdon said. “I decided to use this project to reaffirm my belief in humankind and to express my belief, musically, that the world will right itself and come out stronger for it.”

“Working with one of the world’s best living composers and being a part of this internationally significant musical collaboration is big news for the MSO and for Mobile,” Celia Mann Baehr, president and CEO of the symphony explained. “We are excited to perform the U.S. premiere and to bring Jennifer and Avi to Mobile. This is an amazing milestone for our

organization and our musicians. It shines a spotlight on what we’re accomplishing on the Gulf Coast. We are grateful to all donors and sponsors who have made it possible.”

The MSO has built a strong reputation as one of the South’s top regional orchestra, and is known for performing challenging works, including those by living composers. In 2006 the MSO made news with a three-year composers-in-residence program with Kevin Puts, Kenji Bunch and Mason Bates, all of whom have gone on to remarkable careers and recognition, including a Pulitzer for Puts.

The NEA grant is among more than 1,100 projects across America totaling nearly $27 million that were selected during this second round of Grants for Arts Projects fiscal year 2021 funding.

“As the country and the arts sector begin to imagine returning to a post-pandemic world, the National Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce funding that will help arts organizations such as the Mobile Symphony reengage fully with partners and audiences,” said NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers. “Although the arts have sustained many during the pandemic, the chance to gather with one another and share arts experiences is its own necessity and pleasure.”

Memberships for the 2021-2022 season go on sale June 21. More details can be found at

All concerts by the MSO have been made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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