“ The event really opened our students' eyes to the exciting world of music. Their faces expressed a level of excitement and engagement that was proof of success. We were honored to be invited and look forward to the next visit with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. ”–Monica Allen, District Music Director, Detroit Services Learning Academy
With a mission to connect students in Detroit with instruments, access to music, and music education programs across the city, Detroit Harmony—part of the DSO’s Detroit Strategy—has created an ecosystem of partnerships that cater to nurturing the interests and talents of youth.
“We’re working together to develop a foundation of trust in order to eliminate struggle over students and resources, supporting existing programs to flourish; as well as helping to bring arts in the schools,” says Damien Crutcher, DSO Managing Director of Detroit Harmony. "Collaborative effort is the only way to reach every young person in Detroit.”
On May 2, efforts were in full force as Detroit Harmony, community partners, and 25 volunteers curated an interactive music education experience for 132 young people, grades K-8 at Greater Grace Temple church on Detroit’s west side. Students from Detroit Ellis Academy East, Detroit Ellis Academy West, and Detroit Services Learning Academy engaged in three musical performance presentations that ranged in styles including Caribbean traditions, jazz, and classical.
Jean Carlo Ureña Gonzalez, Graduate Student Instructor at University of Michigan - School of Music, Theatre & Dance had students moving with eclectic sounds of percussion and instruction on how to dance the merengue.
The Charles Prophet Trio added a jazzy flare to the morning that urged youth to express themselves through dance—a sight that filled the sanctuary with emotion as students showed off their footwork and special moves one-by-one, before being joined by their peers who jammed to the sounds of Charles Prophet’s tenor saxophone.
DSO musicians Rachel Harding Klaus (violin), Eun Park Lee (violin), Mike Chen (viola), and David LeDoux (cello) opened their ensemble performance with Jack White’s "7 Nation Army"—to which, students could be heard whispering, ‘I know that song!’ as they hummed along. The quartet also included composer Smoky Robinson's Motown classic, “My Girl” — made popular by The Temptations.
While enjoying the breadth of music being shared, education about each instrument and a brief overview into what the audience would be hearing were also part of the experience. They learned differences between the viola and violin; heard cello highlights; could identify the bass guitar and drums and heard tenor saxophone solos.
“ It was an elated experience with the DSO workshop–learning different ways to get more knowledge in music and finding more interests in music. Who knew that I’d love the saxophone? If you missed this, you’ve got to come to the next one. ”—Ms. H, Music Teacher, Detroit Services Learning Academy
A core component of Detroit Harmony’s work is ensuring that students obtain high-quality instruments. During breakout sessions, three large-spaced rooms were set up as workshops in Greater Grace that welcomed students to explore and test out string, wind, brass, and percussion instruments.
The energized youth traveled from practicing the violin with representatives of the Sphinx Organization to a samba and rhythmic workshop with Jean Carlo and musicians from the U of M–School of Music, Theatre and Dance; on to gaining hands-on experience with wind instruments, and learning about the harp with educators from Cass Technical High School.
Detroit Harmony is intentional about providing resources and interactive experiences to youth. With community support, the work is being done in a way that illustrates the power of collective impact—bringing diverse worlds of music together and creating space for the various music programs throughout Detroit to coexist effectively and collaboratively.
This is what harmony is all about.
“ I always love the opportunity to connect with young people at Detroit Harmony events, and this was no exception. We were singing classic Motown songs together and exchanging spirited high fives. I was able to connect with students to discuss their interests and talk about our summer program offerings, with the goal of ensuring that every Detroiter has access to excellent music education. ”—Ben Piper, musician and education program manager, Motown Museum