The DSO is a community-supported orchestra, which means that we have a responsibility to also be a community-supporting orchestra. Our friends and neighbors make it possible to do what we do, so our work must benefit the lives of people who live in the community we call home.
Not surprisingly, our community outreach and education programs were thrown a curveball as the coronavirus pandemic spread through Detroit and Michigan as a whole. How can we continue teaching our hundreds of Civic Youth Ensembles students when the doors of The Max are closed? How can we reach folks in hospitals, schools, assisted living facilities, and community-based organizations around town when we can’t physically be there with them? How can we be community-supporting in a chaotic world?
We’re still searching for some of those answers. But luckily, at least for some of our community partners, we’ve found a way. Read on to learn more about what our musicians and Community & Learning staff have been up to in this upside-down world.
Alzheimer’s Association (Greater Michigan Chapter)
Our musicians are no strangers to the folks at the Alzheimer’s Association – specifically the Bruce H. and Rosalie N. Rosen Community Connect Program, which provides people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia (and their care partners) a broad range of free social and cultural opportunities throughout Metro Detroit. Under normal circumstances, our musicians perform regularly for Community Connect participants in person; but like so many things in the coronavirus era, these engagements have moved online.
Musicians have performed for Community Connect participants via Zoom, which is admittedly a little wonky. But the music is still there, creating comfort and connection in a time of distance. “None of us were prepared for online performing, so I ended up converting my living room into a makeshift recording studio,” says DSO cellist Jeremy Crosmer. “Good equipment and software [are] important for producing digital audio that sounds closest to a live performance, so I invested in both back in March in order to continue providing quality music to our DSO fans.”
“ Seeing the Zoom performance attendees light up made my day! Usually when we play live we do not get to see the public's reaction until we end the performance and then we hear the applause. It was fun to see everyone smile and react to the music. ”Marian Tanau, DSO violin
“ The fun part about performing online is getting to hear from the audience in real time in the chat or on video. Many folks have requests, and guess what: my music library is right next to me, so I can just pull the piece out and play it! ”Jeremy Crosmer, DSO Cello
All of us have rallied around healthcare workers and first responders as this pandemic continues, and we’ve seen the incredible things that can happen when people come together to say thank you: ten-foot-tall letters on hospital lawns, jangling bells and booming drums from apartment balconies, and grassroots organizing to make sure workers are supported and can stay safe.
Earlier this year, 21 DSO musicians, staff members, and Civic Youth Ensembles students recorded video messages thanking Beaumont doctors, nurses, and staff, and two DSO musicians recorded special messages for the Beaumont Generations senior program. We also dedicated a week of the #PlayOnYourPorch initiative to thanking Healthcare Heroes.
American House Senior Living
Although there’s no rubber stamp to make it official, we consider ourselves to be something of a “house band” for the many residents of American House homes throughout Metro Detroit. We perform at American House locations dozens of times per year and invite residents to Open Rehearsals at Orchestra Hall. The American House Choir has even performed with DSO musicians in The Cube.
Suffice it to say, we miss seeing all of our American House friends. That’s why we organized a write-a-thon to send 500 letters to residents to get in touch, let them know we’re thinking about them, and promise to perform for them again soon. Acting Concertmaster Kimberly Kaloyanides Kennedy, Acting Associate Concertmaster Hai-Xin Wu, and Assistant Principal Flute Sharon Sparrow also recorded an at-home performance to share with American House residents as a way to #KeepTheMusicPlaying.
Kadima provides residential, therapeutic, and social services to people with mental health needs – including music therapy sessions through the Creative Expressions Program, which typically involve DSO musicians meeting with and performing for Kadima patients. Luckily these sessions have been able to continue over Zoom, with DSO cellist Jeremy Crosmer teaming up with music therapists Jody Conradi Stark and Jordan Blanchard to meet with Kadima participants twice a week.
“ [The sessions] help me think about things other than the problems in my life right now … Jordan and Jody are fun people who are non-judging, and that’s very important if you’re expressing yourself. ”Mike, Kadima Creative Expressions Program participant
Fund the future
Join donors from across the Detroit community and around the world to bring outstanding music, life-changing educational programs, and far-reaching engagement activities to over 500,000 people each year!