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Benedum Foundation partners with WVU to support Morgantown Community Orchestra

A $45,000 grant awarded to the WVU College of Creative Arts by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation supports the Morgantown Community Orchestra, which operates as part of the Community Music Program. (WVU File Photo)

A $45,000 grant awarded to the WVU College of Creative Arts by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation supports the Morgantown Community Orchestra, which operates as part of the Community Music Program. (WVU File Photo)

Residents of north-central West Virginia will have new opportunities to play and enjoy classical music thanks to a $45,000 grant awarded to the West Virginia University College of Creative Arts by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

A portion of the grant funds will allow the School of Music to purchase new instruments for use by the Morgantown Community Orchestra, which operates as part of the Community Music Program. The remaining funds will be used to provide transportation to and from Morgantown Community Orchestra concerts for residents of senior living facilities.

The grant marks a new milestone in the University’s long history with the Benedum Foundation as the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit’s first contribution to support the College of Creative Arts.

“Enjoying live music is a shared experience between performers and audiences,” Keith Jackson, dean of the College of Creative Arts, said. “Just as importantly, it is an experience that should be available to people of all ages and ability levels. With this support from the Benedum Foundation, we can enrich the lives of many in our community by providing greater access for both populations.”

Sandra Schwartz, interim director of the School of Music, said the Morgantown Community Orchestra has averaged at least 20 members over the past few years. Membership is growing, but participation may be limited by access to instruments – particularly those that people may not own because they are large and costly.

The grant funds will be used to purchase at least two cellos, two basses and two bassoons available for use by orchestra members.

“If an adult formerly played an instrument – maybe in middle school or high school – and no longer plays, the chances are pretty good they’re not keeping a bassoon or a cello or a bass around the house, simply because of the size of the instrument,” Schwartz said. “This grant allows the orchestra to provide access to people who no longer own an instrument but may want to play with the orchestra.”

The grant’s transportation component was inspired by Schwartz’s personal experience working at a nursing home part-time after college.

“I knew that being able to get out and do things they used to enjoy doing is a major problem,” Schwartz said. “Although the facility owned a van or a shuttle bus, it was basically to take people shopping or to medical appointments. Occasionally, there’d be some special event for the residents. We want to take the burden off the facility to have to provide transportation, and we’ll do it for them. We’ll provide accessible transportation to the Morgantown Community Orchestra concerts.”

The Morgantown Community Orchestra typically performs two free concerts a year at the Canady Creative Arts Center – one in the spring and one during the holiday season. Beginning this spring, the School of Music will provide transportation for interested residents of Harmony of Morgantown and The Village at Heritage Point to attend both concerts.

Over 60-plus years, the Benedum Foundation has provided millions of dollars to WVU programs and projects aimed at enhancing quality of life for West Virginians. Named for the son of West Virginia native and oil and gas industry businessman Michael L. Benedum, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation provides grant funding to projects and initiatives throughout West Virginia and Pittsburgh, two places that Benedum and his wife Sarah called home during their lifetime together.

President Jen Giovannitti explained that the Benedum Foundation has long believed in the power of the arts, and Benedum sees the value in providing access to this caliber of music for all.

Schwartz is grateful to the Benedum Foundation for its generous support of the Morgantown Community Orchestra, which began in the early 1900s as the School of Music sought to supplement its orchestra amid low enrollment. She noted that the orchestra is a valuable resource for residents of north-central West Virginia.

“Lots of larger communities have opportunities for community members to engage with the arts and perform in a musical ensemble,” Schwartz said. “This is one of a few opportunities locally for people to continue to play their instrument.”

Morgantown Community Orchestra membership spans all ages and backgrounds, ranging from high school and college students who want to practice or play a second instrument to working adults and retirees who played years ago and enjoy making music. The orchestra’s repertoire is carefully chosen to accommodate the ensemble’s need for music with a wide range of styles and difficulty.

To learn more about the Morgantown Community Orchestra, visit Supporters can make a gift to the Community Music Program online or contact Jennifer Jordan, director of development, at for more information.

The Benedum Foundation grant was awarded through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

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