St. Cecilia Music Center Announces Stella Royce as the Recipient of the 2020 Helen DeVos Legacy Award

St. Cecilia Music Center (SCMC) has named Stella Royce as the recipient of the distinguished Helen DeVos Legacy Award.  The Helen DeVos Legacy Award Dinner honoring Mrs. Royce will be held at St. Cecilia Music Center on March 7, 2020. The Award will be held during Women’s History Month and will be the second annual event to honor an outstanding woman who has championed the arts in West Michigan.The inaugural event, held this year on March 23, 2019 honored Helen DeVos and also celebrated SCMC’s 135th anniversary and the history of women at St. Cecilia Music Center.

Executive Director, Cathy Holbrook says, “St. Cecilia Music Center is thrilled to recognize Stella Royce for all she has done to promote the arts and culture in West Michigan. Stella has been a vital force in the leadership and vision of St. Cecilia Music Center for over 60 years and she and her husband, the late Chuck Royce, have been generous supporters of the Grand Rapids Symphony, Opera Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Ballet as well as many other arts organization. We are honored to recognize Stella as our esteemed award winner in 2020 of the Helen DeVos Legacy Award. Stella has truly been one of the great patron saints of St. Cecilia Music Center and has led a life of service to the arts with an enthusiastic love of music.”

In March 2019 St. Cecilia Music Center held the first annual Helen DeVos Legacy Award Dinner honoring the first recipient an namesake of the award, the late Helen DeVos. In Spring 2019, it was announced that this award would be presented each year during Women’s History Month to a woman who has helped expand the cultural life of our community and has shown exemplary service to the arts.

The second annual Helen DeVos Legacy Award Dinner will take place on March 7, 2020 and will showcase Stella Royce’s lifelong work in promoting the arts and culture within West Michigan.

Tickets for March 7, 2020 Annual Helen DeVos Legacy Award Dinner to honor Stella Royce are available starting today at or by calling 616-459-2224 or visiting St. Cecilia Music Center at 24 Ransom NE, Grand Rapids, 49503. The Helen DeVos Legacy Award Dinner to honor Stella Royce will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail hour, followed by a performance in Royce Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. A sit-down dinner and program in Dexter Ballroom takes place at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $125 per person with table sponsorships available for $1500. The Annual Award Dinner each year celebrates and honors its special award recipients showcasing their lifelong contributions to the arts.  Proceeds from the Helen DeVos Award Dinner honoring Stella Royce will help support St. Cecilia Music Center’s artistic performances, SCMC’s significant music education programs for youth and adults, and preservation of SCMC’s historical building.

History of St. Cecilia Music Center

Our oldest performing arts organization in West Michigan, St. Cecilia Music Center, began in 1883. Nine women, led by Ella Matthews Pierce, gathered on a September afternoon to form a society to promote the study and appreciation of music in all of its branches, and to encourage the development of music within the community. They chose to name the new organization after Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

In the late 1880s the members began planning for a building of their own, designed by prominent Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb, who was a protégé of Carnegie Hall’s architect, William Burnet Tuthill. The building, which currently stands at 24 Ransom Ave in downtown Grand Rapids, opened to the public in 1894, and is the only building in the United States built by women and was operated solely for the purpose of music.

St. Cecilia Music Center is known as the “Mother of the Arts” in Grand Rapids:

  • The predecessor to the Grand Rapids Symphony, was originally organized by SCMC in 1919.
  • Opera nights started in the 1960’s sowing the creation of the West Michigan Opera Association, which evolved into today’s Opera Grand Rapids.
  • Grand Rapids Civic Theater also traces its beginnings to SCMC.

SCMC has also hosted thousands of community events since its founding, including an address by Susan B. Anthony in 1899 in support of Women’s Suffrage. During World War I, SCMC served the national needs by headquartering the American Red Cross. In the 1950’s SCMC held local art classes in the building under the auspices of the GI Bill.

SCMC also had its share of challenges. It was slated for demolition in 1966 in the wake of downtown Grand Rapids Urban Renewal. Fortunately, the building was saved by members of the community who recognized its great value and regional asset for maintaining and supporting the arts throughout eight decades. Since 1971, the building has been listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

Still carrying out the founding women’s original mission, today St. Cecilia Music Center has expanded the scope of its programming moving beyond its decades long reputation as an organization focused solely on Classical Music. Today SCMC’s main three concert series include The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Series now in its eighth season, which brings the best chamber musicians in the world to Grand Rapids to perform three times per season; The Jazz Series in its 13th season; and The Acoustic Café Folk Series in its sixth season.

St. Cecilia Music Center also continues to provide quality music education opportunities for thousands of youth and adults through its School of Music Programs. These programs include youth orchestras, bands and jazz combos, and music camps in the summer, as well as, an adult band and orchestra. There is also an elementary school level outreach program within Grand Rapids Public Schools called “Strings to Schools”. This free after school beginning strings class for kids has helped them improve their grades, their attitudes, and their family life.

SCMC remains committed to being an accessible community hub that provides life changing musical experiences for everyone that wishes to participate.

More information about St. Cecilia Music Center is available online at