News

The Helen DeVos Legacy Award Gala honoring the Late Stella Royce will be held at St. Cecilia Music Center on March 7, 2020 during Women’s History Month

St. Cecilia Music Center (SCMC) will host the Helen DeVos Legacy Award Gala honoring the late Stella Royce on March 7, 2020. Stella Royce was one of Grand Rapids’ longtime and dedicated community members supporting the arts and culture in West Michigan. In November 2019, Stella Royce passed away after the award in her name was announced in summer 2019. Stella Royce and her late husband Chuck Royce, were long-time supporters of St. Cecilia Music Center with over 60 years of service to the organization as board members, committee members, campaign chairs and dedicated donors.  The second annual Helen DeVos Legacy Award Gala on March 7, 2020 will showcase Stella Royce’s lifelong work in promoting the arts and culture in West Michigan. Royce family members will be present to accept the award in Stella Royce’s honor.

Executive Director, Cathy Holbrook says, “St. Cecilia Music Center is thrilled to recognize Stella Royce for all she did to promote arts and culture in West Michigan. Stella was a vital force in the leadership and vision of St. Cecilia Music Center for over 60 years and she and her husband, Chuck Royce, consistently promoted and supported St. Cecilia Music Center’s programs, concerts and its importance to the culture of our community. Stella and Chuck Royce also generously supported other arts organizations including the Grand Rapids Symphony, Opera Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Ballet as well as many others. We are very honored to recognize Stella as the esteemed award winner (post mortem) of this year’s Helen DeVos Legacy Award. Stella was truly one of the great patron saints of St. Cecilia Music Center and led a life of service to the arts with her enthusiastic love of music.”

In March 2019 St. Cecilia Music Center held the first annual Helen DeVos Legacy Award Gala honoring the first recipient and 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 Helen DeVos Legacy Award Gala 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 will take place at 7:00 p.m. The Annual Helen DeVos Award each year celebrates and honors a woman who has had a lifelong contribution to the arts.  Proceeds from the Helen DeVos Award Gala 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.

NOTE: The March 7, 2020 Event is Sold Out.

History of St. Cecilia Music Center

The oldest performing arts organization in West Michigan, St. Cecilia Music Center, began in 1883. Nine women, led be 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 1880’s 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 serving as an assessable 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 scmc-online.org

St. Cecilia Music Center’s mission is to promote the study, appreciation and  performance of music in order to enrich the lives of West Michigan residents. The Center fulfills this mission by presenting visiting world-class artists in concert, providing music education for all ages through our School of Music and preserving a historic building for musical activities and community events.