The purpose of the Legacy Committee is to amplify and commemorate the mission of the DSO’s Classical Roots Celebration and Concert. The DSO seeks to celebrate and preserve the significant history of African American contributions to classical music and to diversify the classical music community. The Committee will track social capital impact to catalogue and present various aspects of the Classical Roots story. This collection will include historical documents, videos, photos, and recordings of past Honorees, Orchestra Fellows, composers, guest artists, and Steering Committee Chairs.

Adequately telling the Classical Roots story, past and future, requires a strategic infrastructure and will take some time. The Legacy Committee is working with local arts and culture experts to develop an appropriate archival process, and the DSO team is beginning to research and collect previous Classical Roots mementos. As items are being collected and categorized, they will be digitized with the goal of presenting our history to the public. If you are interested in more information about the Legacy Committee, email DSO staff lead Sarah Smarch.


The Brazeal Dennard Chorale, founded in 1972, by Dr. Brazeal W. Dennard, is one of the longest standing organized choral groups in the country. For more than four decades, the Chorale has wooed Detroit audiences with its vocal excellence in the performance of choral music of all genres, while it continues to pursue the mission of its founder: to remember, discover, and preserve the spiritual music of the African American experience and culture. 

Classical Roots was co-founded by Brazeal Dennard and has always featured choral music at its core. The very first Classical Roots concert in 1978 featured a large choir of singers from several area churches with Brazeal Dennard Chorale members as a nucleus, described by the original program book as “representative of the interdenominational and community-wide aspect of the event.” Now led by Artistic Director Alice McAllister Tillman, the Chorale remains an important presence on each Classical Roots concert. 




In the week leading up to this year's concert, guest artists Marcus Printup (Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra) and Anthony McGill (Principal Clarinet for the New York Philharmonic) joined DSO African American Orchestra Fellows Cole Randolph and Jaquain Sloan for two virtual classroom visits. Students from across Metro Detroit had a chance to learn more about the musical traditions each musician was brought up in, why they chose to pursue music professionally, what they had to challenge or rethink along the way, and what they do to maintain excellence in their careers.

In total, 23 individual classrooms registered to take part, representing a total of 14 schools. Classroom attendance provided by teachers indicates that an estimated 470 students were reached.

You learn from the people who have paved the way for you. Your voice is going to continue to evolve... don’t be restricted by that, and always go beyond what is required. ”

Marcus Printup to students

Virtual Chamber Performances

Each year, the DSO makes stops at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church and Plymouth United Church of Christ in the weeks preceding the Classical Roots Celebration. Hartford features performances by the DSO African American Orchestra Fellows, and Plymouth is the site of the Classical Roots Chamber Recital, which features the Classical Roots Composer in Residence and DSO musicians performing works by African American composers. This year, these experiences were transformed into virtual experiences featuring the DSO's African American Orchestra Fellows Cole Randolph and Jaquain Sloan.

Classical Roots Community Performance: Plymouth United Church of Christ


The DSO inaugurated its African American Orchestra Fellowship in 1990 and is proud to be a leader in celebrating the contributions of African American composers, nurturing the talents of young African American classical musicians, and increasing access and opportunity for African Americans within classical music.

The DSO’s current African American Orchestra Fellows are Cole Randolph, cello, and Jaquain Sloan, bassoon.

The African American Orchestra Fellowship is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  

Cole Randolph, cello
Jaquain Sloan, bassoon