E. Lee Ronnel Music Academy

E. Lee Ronnel Music Academy Established at Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Following Largest Individual Gift in Symphony’s History

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (ASO) has announced the largest individual gift in the non-profit’s 56 year history from longtime supporter and former board chairman, Lee Ronnel. Ronnel, who passed away on January 29, 2022 at age 85, bequeathed the undisclosed financial gift to ASO’s endowment. The gift will support a strong orchestra in Arkansas and ensure future generations of Arkansans have access to quality music education. In appreciation for his generous gift, ASO will unite all existing and future music education and community engagement programs into the E. Lee Ronnel Music Academy.

“Lee’s support, friendship and commitment to the arts have helped the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra grow and thrive since our earliest days. He truly loved supporting musicians and their work,” said ASO CEO Christina Littlejohn. “He’s honored us all with this opportunity to carry on his mission by ensuring a strong future for ASO’s community and youth orchestra programs and introduce new generations of Arkansans to the transformative power of music through the E. Lee Ronnel Music Academy.”

Lee Ronnel, founder and president of Metal Recycling Corporation of Little Rock, was a professionally trained pianist and staunch supporter of ASO for more than half a century. He led multiple conductor search committees, co-chaired Opus Ball X with his wife Dale and was a recipient of the Governor’s Patron of the Arts award. In addition to supporting ASO’s community engagement and music education programs, a portion of Ronnel’s gift will fund an endowment to support operating costs for the future ASO Stella Boyle Smith Music Center. The community music center, planned for Little Rock’s East Village, will serve as the home of the E. Lee Ronnel Music Academy.

“Lee understood the power of music and the arts to lift people up and bring them together,” said ASO board member Dale Ronnel, Lee’s wife of 61 years. “I hope this gift inspires others to give their support to the arts and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.”

The E. Lee Ronnel Music Academy will expand ASO’s capacity to reach and serve Arkansas children and adults through programming that includes Arkansas Youth Orchestras, Strings Class, Summer Strings Camp, ASO Community Orchestra and other programs. ASO music education programs are designed to develop confidence, creative thinking and a strong work ethic that will enhance students' musical endeavors and life skills. The E. Lee Ronnel Music Academy will also support the development of future music engagement programs in the Stella Boyle Smith Music Center like adult music classes, bucket band, children’s choir and more.

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A donation to ASO puts instruments in the hands of children, makes live symphonic music accessible to all Arkansans, and makes it possible for world-class musicians to call Arkansas home. 

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