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Igniting the Spark

Jay Ritchie on Why Your Support Matters

I really believe that a culture, a society, a community, has its soul expressed through music. If we’re going to have a great society here in America, in Michigan, in Detroit, then we need great music education, because that is an important source of expression and inspiration for every member of our community. 

What is your earliest memory of live music? For most of us, early education in music changes our lives. Little did I know that joining my grade school band would ignite a spark in me that fueled my journey all the way to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Creating music as part of a greater whole made me more confident in every part of my life, from school to spending time with my friends. Being so young, playing music felt like the biggest, most impressive thing I had ever done.

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I never wanted that experience to end, and all these years later, I’m so fortunate to be a member of the DSO. One of the best parts of being a DSO musician is the many opportunities it gives me to be a teacher. The DSO offers dozens of educational programs that serve hundreds of students, whether they are just beginning their journey of musical discovery, conservatory-bound, or looking to pick up their instrument again after years of not playing.

It is heartwarming to visit a classroom of preschoolers, play for them as they sing, and invite them to explore our instruments. Thanks to your support of the DSO’s commitment to education, elementary through high school aged students may participate in private lessons, sometimes completely tuition-free. They may also join one of the DSO’s Civic Youth Ensembles (CYE). These are wonderful opportunities for serious young musicians to sharpen their skills under the instruction of masterful teachers, including DSO musicians like me.

Symphony Spotlight with Jay Ritchie

The newest addition to CYE, the Detroit Pistons Bucket Band, is a partnership between the Pistons, the DSO, and Midtown Detroit’s Spain Elementary-Middle School. Through this free program, youngsters gain a dynamic entry to the basic principles of musicality and ensemble performance. Plus, when you’re nine, what could be more fun than banging on a bucket and playing the halftime show at the Little Caesars Arena? Importantly, Bucket Band creates a pathway for its students to deepen their music education by participating tuition-free in other CYE ensembles.

As we rebuild communities in the months ahead, we must not forget our youth. Our kids will need to work together more and more, and music is a unifying experience that uplifts them and bridges differences. Through our education efforts we make sure that we’re reaching children and that they will become part of our DSO family—and hopefully the community will be better for it.

Consider a gift to the DSO’s Annual Fund today to support the next generation of Detroiters, who deserve the best education there is.