<September 2017>


DSO’s 7th Annual Heroes Gala will honor philanthropists Madeleine H. Berman and her late husband Mandell L. Berman

Michelle Merrill will conduct music by Brahms, Dvořák, Beethoven, and more; pianist Jon Kimura Parker will be featured soloist for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue

Gala and benefit concert support DSO’s commitment to music education

Detroit, (May 17, 2017) – On Saturday, June 10, 2017, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) will honor Madeleine (Madge) H. Berman and her late husband Mandell (Bill) L. Berman at the seventh annual Heroes Gala and Benefit Concert. The Heroes Gala honors the remarkable men and women who impact the vision, values, and success of the DSO and the community.

The Bermans have provided decades of leadership and support to the DSO, with both having served on the DSO Board. Mrs. Berman served on the Board for over twenty years before being appointed an Emeritus Director in 2013. Beyond the DSO, Bill and Madgse have provided leadership, service, and giving to numerous causes in the Jewish community and in education, healthcare, and the arts.

“It gives us enormous joy to recognize Bill and Madge and celebrate their amazing legacy,” says Anne Parsons, DSO President and CEO. “Their leadership, commitment, and generosity have made our world a better place, and it is our honor to count them as dear friends and lifelong members of our oneDSO family.”

Both Mr. and Mrs. Berman first saw the DSO in concert as schoolchildren in Detroit, before becoming subscribers for over 60 years. More recently, they have been critical partners in the DSO’s robust music education mission, inspiring the creation of the Live from Orchestra Hall: Classroom Edition webcast series and enabling the inauguration of the Civic Youth Wind Ensemble.

Bill Berman passed away in December 2016 at the age of 99.

The benefit concert, conducted by Associate Conductor and Phillip and Lauren Fisher Community Ambassador Michelle Merrill and hosted by D.J. Oliver, will tell the life story of Bill and Madge through music. An homage to the DSO’s Educational Concert Series, which is webcast live to students in Detroit and around the world through Classroom Edition, the program is anchored by Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue featuring guest pianist Jon Kimura Parker and also includes music by Beethoven, Brahms, Dvořák, and Bernstein. DSO Principal Cello Wei Yu (James C. Gordon Chair) will perform “Prayer” from Ernest Bloch’s From Jewish Life in tribute to the late Bill Berman.

The Brass Section of the Detroit Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble, one of the DSO’s Civic Youth Ensembles under the Wu Family Academy of Learning and Engagement, will kick off the concert with a brass fanfare. Additionally, five young students from the Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra have been invited to perform onstage during the concert with their DSO mentors.

The concert takes place Saturday, June 10 at 7 p.m. in Orchestra Hall, within Midtown Detroit’s Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center.

Proceeds from the Heroes Gala and Benefit Concert support the DSO’s commitment to transforming the lives of children and youth through music education.

In addition to concert tickets, the gala celebration will include a gourmet dinner, dessert reception, afterglow, and other special actives. For gala tickets, please contact Jacqueline Garner at (313) 576-5120 or jgarner@dso.org.

Concert-only tickets are also available. Please see below for details.

The DSO founded the Heroes Gala in 2010. Previous honorees are:

  • 2010: Jim Nicholson, President and CEO of PVS Chemicals Inc.
  • 2012: Lloyd Reuss, former President of the General Motors Corp
  • 2013: Barbara Van Dusen, beloved supporter of the arts in Detroit
  • 2014: Dan Gilbert, Founder and Chairman of Rock Ventures together with Matt Cullen, President and Chief Executive Officer of Rock Ventures LLC
  • 2015: The Davidson/Gerson Family, prolific Detroit philanthropists and supporters of the DSO’s William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series
  • 2016: John A. & Marlene L. Boll, John A. & Marlene L. Boll Foundation

About Bill and Madge Berman

Well-known for their philanthropic efforts in the Detroit area, Bill and Madge Berman have generously supported the Jewish community, education, healthcare, and the arts for most of their lives. Some of their most visible projects include the 600-seat Mandell and Madeleine Berman Center for the Performing Arts at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, the Berman Center for Jewish Education at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, the Madeleine Berman Academy for Humane Education at the Detroit Zoological Society, and the Berman Michigan Humane Society Shelter in Westland.

Bill cofounded the Jewish Education Service of North America and served as president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, as president of the Council of Jewish Federations, and as first chair of the Skillman Foundation. Madge has been on the boards of the Detroit Community Music School, Detroit Music Hall for the Performing Arts, the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Michigan Opera Theatre. Both Bill and Madge served on the DSO Board—Madge for more than twenty years, before being appointed a Director Emeritus.

Bill was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2013, sharing the honor with a select group of eminent thinkers and doers (including Alexander Graham Bell, Jonas Salk, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others). Madge is one of seven original members of the Detroit Arts Council, was appointed to the Michigan Council of the Arts in 1983, and helped originate the Michigan Governor’s Arts and Culture Awards. She was also appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 1994 and has served on the board of Americans for the Arts since 1989—in 2014 receiving its prestigious Legacy Award.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, Bill partnered with his brother-in-law Bert Smokler in a real estate development business. The company built more than 20,000 houses and apartments in Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, and New York. After retiring from the business, Bill ran MLB Investments from an office in Southfield. Madge held several jobs, including theater and music critic for the Eccentric newspapers in suburban Detroit. She also helped develop auctions to raise funds for WTVS and WDET, Detroit’s public television and public radio stations.

The Bermans met on a blind date while Bill was in the Navy, and his white uniform won Madge over. They were married in 1950 and have two children and three grandchildren.

Bill Berman passed away in December 2016 at the age of 99, a few weeks after agreeing to be honored at the 2017 Heroes Gala and Benefit Concert.

About Michelle Merrill

Michelle Merrill currently serves as the Associate Conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, where she also carries the title of Phillip and Lauren Fisher Community Ambassador. A passionate and dynamic artist, Ms. Merrill was named as one of Hour Detroit Magazine’s three Cultural Organization Leaders to Watch, and made her classical subscription debut with the DSO in April 2016. She is also a recipient of a 2016 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award.

As Associate Conductor she helps plan and conduct more than 30 concerts per season, including the renowned Educational Concert Series and Live from Orchestra Hall: Classroom Edition webcasts, which have reached more than 100,000 students to date in classrooms around the world. Merrill also gives pre-concert lectures, leads adult music education seminars, engages with students in and around Metro Detroit, speaks on behalf of the DSO throughout the community, and participates in hosting DSO webcasts.

In March of 2014, Merrill stepped in on short notice with the Meadows Symphony Orchestra for their performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4, which music critic Scott Cantrell of the Dallas Morning News described as "stunning" and later named to his list of Top Ten Classical Performances of 2014. She was awarded in 2013 the prestigious Ansbacher Conducting Fellowship by members of the Vienna Philharmonic and the American Austrian Foundation, which enabled her to be in residence at the world-renowned Salzburg Festival.

Born in Dallas, TX, Merrill studied conducting with Dr. Paul C. Phillips at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, where she holds a Master of Music Degree in conducting and a Bachelor of Music in performance. Apart from music, she loves cooking, running, hiking, and spending time outdoors with her husband, Steve Merrill, who serves as the principal percussionist of the Jacksonville Symphony.

About Jon Kimura Parker

Pianist Jon Kimura Parker has performed as guest soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Wolfgang Sawallisch in Carnegie Hall, toured Europe with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Andre Previn, and shared the stage with Jessye Norman at Berlin’s Philharmonie. A true Canadian ambassador of music, Parker has given command performances for Queen Elizabeth II, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Japan. He is an Officer of The Order of Canada, his country’s highest civilian honor.

He performs as duo partner regularly with James Ehnes, Aloysia Friedmann, Lynn Harrell, Jamie Parker, Orli Shaham, and Cho-Liang Lin, with whom he has given world premieres of sonatas by Paul Schoenfield, John Harbison, and Steven Stucky. He also performs regularly with the Miró Quartet, and is a founding member of the Montrose Trio with violinist Martin Beaver and cellist Clive Greensmith. An active media personality, Parker hosted the television series Whole Notes on Bravo and CBC Radio’s Up and Coming. His YouTube channel showcases the Concerto Chat video series, with illuminating discussions of the piano concerto repertoire.

Parker is currently Professor of piano at The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and Artistic Advisor of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival. He studied with Edward Parker and Keiko Parker privately, Lee Kum-Sing at the Vancouver Academy of Music and the University of British Columbia, Robin Wood at the Victoria Conservatory, Marek Jablonski at the Banff Centre, and Adele Marcus at The Juilliard School. He currently lives in Texas with his wife, violinist Aloysia Friedmann, and their daughter Sophie.

About Wei Yu

Wei Yu made his DSO subscription debut in November 2015, performing Dvořák’s Cello Concerto under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. Before joining the DSO, Wei was a member of the New York Philharmonic for seven seasons.

An avid chamber musician, Wei has been invited to the Marlboro and Ravinia music festivals, and has collaborated with a wide range of musicians: cellist David Soyer, pianists Richard Goode and Menahem Pressler, violinists Midori and Pinchas Zukerman, and members of the Guarneri and Juilliard Quartets. As a member of the New York Philharmonic Ensembles, he makes regular appearances at Merkin Concert Hall.

In the summers of 1998 through 2000, Wei participated in the Morningside Music Bridge program at Mount Royal University in Calgary. He subsequently enrolled in the University’s Gifted Youth program under the tutelage of John Kadz and is currently on the faculty of the Morningside Music Bridge program. He has given cello master classes at universities and festivals in the United States, Canada and China.

Born in Shanghai, Wei began studying the cello at age 4 and made his concerto debut at age 11, performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. He received his B.M. from North Park University in Chicago and M.M. from the Juilliard School. His principal teachers include Mei-Juan Liu, John Kadz, Hans Jørgen Jensen, and David Soyer. He performs on the 1778 “Ex-Soyer” Gagliano cello, on generous loan from the Marlboro Music Festival.

Ticket Information

Sponsorships and VIP ticket packages for the seventh annual DSO Heroes Gala and Benefit Concert begin at $1,000. For details please contact Jacqueline Garner at (313) 576-5120 or jgarner@dso.org.

Concert-only tickets begin at $15 and can be purchased at dso.org, by calling (313) 576-5111, or in person at the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center (3711 Woodward Avenue, Detroit).


Seventh Annual Heroes Gala and Benefit Concert 

Michelle Merrill, conductor

D.J. Oliver, host

Jon Kimura Parker, piano

Wei Yu, cello

Saturday, June 10 at 7 p.m. at Orchestra Hall


  Prayer, From Jewish Life, No. 1

  Wei Yu, cello 


  Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93

  II. Allegretto scherzando


  Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80


  Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, “From the New World”

  I. Adagio - Allegro molto


  Rhapsody in Blue

  Jon Kimura Parker, piano


  Three Dance Episodes from On the Town

  III. Times Square: 1944

About the DSO

Hailed by The New York Times as “cutting edge,” the internationally acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra is known for trailblazing performances, visionary maestros, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and an ardent commitment to Detroit. As a community-supported orchestra, generous giving by individuals and institutions at all levels drives the continued success and growth of the institution. Esteemed conductor Leonard Slatkin, called “America’s Music Director” by the Los Angeles Times, became the DSO’s 12th Music Director, endowed by the Kresge Foundation, in 2008. Acclaimed conductor, arranger, and trumpeter Jeff Tyzik serves as Principal Pops Conductor, while celebrated trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard holds the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Jazz Creative Director Chair. With growing attendance and unwavering philanthropic support from the Detroit community, the DSO’s performance schedule includes Classical, Pops, Jazz, Young People’s, and Neighborhood concerts, and collaborations with high profile artists from Steven Spielberg to Ben Folds and Lang Lang. The DSO recently announced its 2017 Asia Tour, the orchestra’s first-ever tour of China and their first of Japan in 19 years. A commitment to broadcast innovation began in 1922, when the DSO became the first orchestra in the world to present a radio broadcast, and continues today with the free Live from Orchestra Hall webcast series, which also reaches tens of thousands of children with the Classroom Edition expansion. Making its home at historic Orchestra Hall within the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, one of America’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, the DSO actively pursues a mission to embrace and inspire individuals, families, and communities through unsurpassed musical experiences.


For Press Inquiries, please contact:

Ben Breuninger
Public Relations Coordinator
bbreuninger@dso.org | 313.576.5196