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GSO Spotlight: Brenda Rhodes

Brenda Rhodes is the founder and executive director of Simple Needs, a local non-profit serving low income families and the homeless. She’s also a long time member of the Georgia Symphony Chorus.

In this conversation, Suzanne and Brenda discuss singing, serving and the ways that local support leads to great communities.

Tell me about your connection to the GSO.

I found out through a friend that the GSO chorus would be singing Carmina Burana, which  I had sung years before, back in New Jersey. I thought that I’d just join for that season and then quit. I just didn’t think I had the time for another commitment. But after singing and sitting with some fun sopranos, I decided I was in for good. 

What does singing in the chorus mean to you?

The main reason is that I love to sing. 

But, I also think that the arts are really important. People don’t seem to be into live music anymore. They’re so used to doing things on their screens, on-line and not in person. I just wanted to support a group who is trying to keep live music thriving. 

In addition to singing in the chorus, I know that you also support us financially. Why do you give to the GSO?

I think it’s overlooked. People think about the ASO, but they don’t think about something more local that’s easier to get to and the quality is just as good. All the musicians are just fabulous. 

People need to support the arts! We don’t want to lose this kind of thing in our community. It would be such a tragedy. We’re seeing local theaters close…we don’t need to lose anything else. 

We need live music. It’s uplifting. I think people need it. We lost it during COVID. It’s not just about listening. It’s a good social opportunity. It’s a fun way to meet like minded people. 

You give to this community in other ways as well. Tell me about your non-profit, Simple Needs.

I started Simple Needs 14 years ago after volunteering for other charities and seeing needs that weren’t being met. We fill the gaps that other social services programs aren’t covering. We help people coming out of homelessness with furniture and cleaning supplies. We help homeless kids with school uniforms, birthday and Christmas presents, and shoes and coats. We have programs for people who live in shelters and those who live in the woods. 

Congratulations on your inclusion in the Cobb Community Foundation Christmas Gift Guide! 

What do you wish people knew about non-profits like Simple Needs..and like the GSO? 

That it’s good to keep your dollars local.
Help out the people that live in your community.

People think that everyone in Cobb County is well off, but truthfully, there’s a lot of poverty. I think we were all born to help others. You live in Cobb County. Help out right here!

And it’s the same for the GSO. Support local entertainment. Don’t let live music die. Music is part of everyone’s life one way or another. Getting to experience it live is such a blessing. 

Even if you don’t have money, help someone. Think about others. Look for opportunities. It’s what we should all be doing.

When we give and serve locally, we’re part of building OUR community. We do it in different ways of course.

Exactly. I love the Sensory Friendly concerts the GSO does for the community. I love that you think about that community. 

It’s definitely one of the programs we’re most passionate about. The GSO is also included in the CCF Holiday Gift Guide. We’re hoping to get training and materials that will help us expand and improve the program even more. 

One last question: How does giving make you feel personally?

It makes me happy. I don’t know why anyone would want to be here without helping someone else. Even if you don’t have money, help someone. Think about others. Look for opportunities. It’s what we should all be doing.


If you’d like to help fulfill a Holiday wish for the GSO, or any of the local nonprofits featured in the Cobb Thrives Gift Guide…you can find an online version here.

Why your support matters

For over 72 years, the GSO has been dedicated to serving our community through musical enrichment and education. From scholarships for students in our youth orchestra, to providing sensory friendly concerts and outreach into underrepresented populations, we responsibly steward your donations to have the greatest impact across all of our programs.