John R. Beck, Principal Percussionist, named Ford Musician Award winner by League of American Orchestras

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (May 17, 2018) – The Winston-Salem Symphony’s Principal Percussionist, John R. Beck, is one of just five orchestra musicians from across the U.S. who will receive Ford Musician Awards for Excellence in Community Service from the League of American Orchestras at the League’s 73rd National Conference in Chicago, June 13-15, 2018. Recognizing the transformative power of music, the Awards honor those in the orchestra field who employ music for the benefit of the greater community.

The awardees’ impact has been deep and life-changing; in partnership with their orchestras and organizations, the musicians have used music to engage, inspire, and heal multiple populations: Latino children and teens, rural communities with limited access to quality music education, cancer patients and their families, the homeless and housing insecure, and visual and performing artists united in support of sheltered animals.

“The Winston-Salem Symphony is extremely proud that its Principal Percussionist, John Beck, is being recognized as one of the recipients of the 2018 Ford Musician Awards for Excellence in Community Service,” said E. Merritt Vale, Winston-Salem Symphony President & CEO. “An exceptional and highly respected musician, educator and leader in his field, John is dedicated to the power of music therapy for patients and families battling debilitating treatments and fighting terminal illnesses. His work helps transform circumstances that often rob people of all sense of control, dignity, and joy into a source of relief from anxiety and pain, and provides a “safe” outlet for often intense internalized emotions. The unique connections he was able to help forge between his work and the Winston-Salem Symphony’s commitment to community partnership through our artistic partnership with guest artist, acclaimed trumpeter Ryan Anthony (himself battling multiple myeloma) and Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Cancer Center under Dr. Cesar Rodriguez—created powerful and unique opportunities to message awareness, support and hope. We are so very proud to count John among the leaders of the Winston-Salem Symphony.”

On YouTube: Ford Musician Award winner John R. Beck works with cancer patients and their families by facilitating drumming circles. Music can be an integral part of medicine, as documented in this short film by Xiao Xiao.

“These five musicians are committed leaders and advocates who inspire their colleagues around the country with their skill and expertise in community settings,” said League of American Orchestras President and CEO Jesse Rosen. “We are grateful to Ford Motor Company Fund for supporting this vital work and helping us honor these role models.”

“We’re proud to recognize the generous service of these talented musicians, who go above and beyond to help make people’s lives better,” said Yisel Cabrera, Manager, Government and Community Relations, Ford Motor Company Fund. “Music and the arts bring people together and strengthen our communities, and that’s a benefit we can all share and enjoy.”

The musicians will receive their awards at the League of American Orchestras’ Conference Luncheon, June 14 at 12:30 p.m., and discuss their work at Social Impact Beyond the Concert Hall: A Musicians’ Panel, an elective session for Conference delegates on June 14 at 8:45 a.m.

John R. Beck is Professor of Percussion at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and also teaches at Wake Forest University. He is the Principal Percussionist of the Winston-Salem Symphony and is a member of the Greensboro Symphony, Brass Band of Battle Creek, and the Philidor Percussion Group. A former member of the United States Marine Band, for 10 years he performed regularly with the National and Baltimore Symphonies, Washington and Baltimore Operas, and the Theater Chamber Players of the Kennedy Center. Beck has toured the United States as a xylophone soloist with the Jack Daniel’s Silver Cornet Band, Brass Band of Battle Creek, and the New Sousa Band. John is a Past President of the Percussive Arts Society and presents clinics endorsing Yamaha percussion instruments, Zildjian cymbals, Innovative mallets, and is a Remo Endorsed Drum Circle Facilitator in the Health and Wellness community. For more information visit

The five award recipients and their orchestras are:

Jeffrey Barker, Associate Principal Flute, Seattle Symphony:
Lullaby Project, Sensory Friendly Concerts, Simple Gifts Initiative, among others

John R. Beck, Principal Percussion, Winston-Salem Symphony:
HealthRHYTHMS drumming with cancer and pediatric behavioral health patients; collaborative research study with physicians on the benefits of interactive group drumming.

Jody Chaffee, Flute II and Piccolo Chair, Community Engagement Director, Personnel Manager, Librarian, Firelands Symphony Orchestra and Chorale (OH)
Providing in-school access to quality music programs for students in rural communities

Erin Hannigan, Principal Oboe, Dallas Symphony Orchestra:
Concerts for Kindness, DSO’s Young Strings program, DSO Teen Council

Juan R. Ramírez Hernández, Violin, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra:
Musicians in Schools, Musicians in Communities, and Talent Development Program, among others

About the Ford Musician Awards for Excellence in Community Service:

Now in its third 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. The Awards shine a spotlight on the work of these musicians with people of low incomes, the homebound elderly, immigrants, veterans, prisoners, students, and all those who may not otherwise have access to—or who are not traditionally served by—orchestras.

The musicians were selected by a panel of peer professionals through a competitive nomination process to receive the awards, which include a $2,500 grant to each musician, as well as an additional $2,500 grant to the musician’s home orchestra to support professional development focused on community service and engagement for musicians.

Previous Award Recipients: 2017 award recipients included Mark Dix, viola, Phoenix Symphony; Michael Gordon, principal flute, Kansas City Symphony; Diane McElfish Helle, violin, Grand Rapids Symphony; Eunsoon Lee-Coroliss, assistant principal violist, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra; and Peter Zlotnick, education manager/principal timpani, Greensboro Symphony. Videos of the 2017 awardees can be found here.

2016 award recipients included Penny Anderson Brill, viola, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; Shannon Orme, bass clarinet, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Jeffrey Paul, Principal Oboe, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra; Brian Prechtl, percussion, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; and Beth Vandervennet, cello, Oakland Symphony.

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.

About the Winston-Salem Symphony

The Winston-Salem Symphony, one of the Southeast’s most highly regarded regional orchestras, began its 71st season, which is Music Director Robert Moody’s Farewell Season, in September 2017. Under the baton of Maestro Moody, the season includes the Classics and Kicked-Back Classics series, Plugged-In Pops series, Discovery Concerts for Kids, annual performances of Handel’s Messiah, a concert featuring Winston-Salem Symphony and Youth Symphony musicians, holiday concerts, three youth orchestra ensembles, and a multitude of educational and community engagement programs. The Symphony is supported by Season Presenting Sponsors BB&T and Bell, Davis & Pitt, P.A., as well as generous funding from the Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, the North Carolina Arts Council, and other dedicated sponsors. For more information, visit

About Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services

Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services—the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company – works with community and global partners to advance driving safety, education and community life. Ford Motor Company Fund has operated for more than 67 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. Ford Driving Skills for Life is free, interactive, hands-on safety training focused on skill development and driving techniques, while addressing inexperience, distractions and impaired driving. Innovation in education is encouraged through Ford Blue Oval Scholars, Ford Driving Dreams, Ford Next Generation Learning and other innovative programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. The Ford Volunteer Corps enlists more than 30,000 Ford employees and retirees each year to work on local projects that strengthen their communities and improve people’s lives in more than 40 countries around the world. For more information, visit

The League of American Orchestras leads, supports, and champions America’s orchestras and the vitality of the music they perform. Its diverse membership of more than 2,000 organizations and individuals across North America runs the gamut from world-renowned orchestras to community groups, from summer festivals to student and youth ensembles, from conservatories to libraries, from

businesses serving orchestras to individuals who love symphonic music. The only national organization dedicated solely to the orchestral experience, the League is a nexus of knowledge and innovation, advocacy, and leadership advancement. Its conferences and events, award-winning Symphony magazine, website, and other publications inform people around the world about orchestral activity and developments. Founded in 1942 and chartered by Congress in 1962, the League links a national network of thousands of instrumentalists, conductors, managers and administrators, board members, volunteers, and business partners. Visit

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This project was supported by the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.

The Winston-Salem Symphony receives operational funding from The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County

Educational initiatives made possible with funding by Wells Fargo, The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and The Winston-Salem and Forsyth County Schools.