DSO announces Detroit Harmony – a new program to put an instrument in the hands of every student in the city of Detroit

- Detroit Harmony also seeks to grow economic opportunity by employing Detroiters in the provision of instruments and music education

- Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation provide initial support of Detroit Harmony

Detroit, (November 14, 2019) – The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) today announced the successful funding of phase one of Detroit Harmony, a major initiative to collaboratively expand the role of music in supporting the educational and social development of Detroit’s school children, while also growing economic opportunity for Detroit citizens through the provision of instruments and music education.

Through a collaborative citywide effort, Detroit Harmony will put an instrument into the hands of every K-12 public, private, and charter school student in the city who wants to learn to play. At the same time, the program will be intentionally structured to bolster economic and workforce development in Detroit, including bringing new jobs to teaching artists, transportation providers, and skilled tradespeople to restore and bring life back to used instruments, plus job training and professional development resources for workers.

The DSO is currently recruiting for a project director to lead Detroit Harmony’s 18-month planning phase. Major support for this initial stage was provided by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation.

Building upon the extensive community and education programs offered by the DSO’s Wu Family Academy for Learning and Engagement, Detroit Harmony stems from the commitment the DSO made in 2017 to improving the quality of life for all Detroiters as the central tenet of the orchestra’s Social Progress Initiative. This was followed by many months of focused discussions with stakeholders across the city and the development of a conceptual design document that addressed the most consistent and critical concerns regarding barriers to both music education and economic opportunity.  Through Detroit Harmony, the DSO seeks to create systemic change in the city of Detroit and believes that the program’s ultimate success will be predicated on inclusive and broad-reaching collaborations with like-minded organizations.  

“The DSO has the responsibility and the opportunity to drive social progress forward for a stronger Detroit, and every child in our city will again have the opportunity to explore all that music has to offer in learning to play an instrument,” said Mark Davidoff, Chairman of the DSO’s Board of Directors. “As a leader in music education and a stakeholder in the economic success and creative vibrancy of Detroit, the DSO believes it can and must play a leadership role in building extraordinary partnerships between schools, arts and culture program providers, and funders that can fulfill this mandate.”

“Access to music education and arts-based learning is exercise for a child’s brain, bringing with it a myriad of benefits that can unlock their creative potential and help drive academic success,” said Amber Slichta, Vice President of Programs, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “The Detroit Harmony project, through this planning process, has a great opportunity to strategically build a program that’s inclusive of national expertise, local educators, afterschool providers, and parent voices.”

Caroline Cummings Rafferty, chair of the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation’s Arts & Culture committee added, “My grandmother and grandfather were deeply committed to supporting the work of the leaders, musicians, and educators of the Detroit Symphony. My father Peter, my uncle Phillip, and so many in the family have built on that passion.  Detroit Harmony is the latest important contribution and investment the DSO has made in the creative education of our city’s youth, and we are grateful to be a part of it.”

“The Detroit Symphony Orchestra thanks the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation for their investment in helping us build a program that is going to change countless lives for the better,” said Anne Parsons, President and CEO of the DSO. “Through Detroit Harmony, the DSO envisions a time when a culture of music-making defines the experience of growing up in Detroit, when every child will have universal access to music education and every teacher in every school in Detroit will have tools to incorporate arts-based learning into curricula.”

About the Wu Family Academy for Learning and Engagement

The vision of the DSO’s Wu Family Academy for Learning and Engagement is to change lives by expanding the understanding of the arts, empowering students to have confidence in their creative decisions, and sparking a passion for music that will last a lifetime. Through the Wu Family Academy, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra aims to inspire life-long music making—whether as a hobby or a career. Through live and digital partnerships, hands-on music education, and training in classrooms, communities, and virtual settings, the Wu Family Academy cultivates relationships that impact lives today, and as a result, our communities tomorrow.

Programs of the Wu Family Academy include training programs (Civic Youth Ensembles and Detroit Community Ensembles), the DSO’s Educational Concert Series and Live from Orchestra Hall Classroom Edition webcasts, partnerships and programs with schools, and Young People’s Family Concerts.

About the DSO

The most accessible orchestra on the planet, the acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra is known for trailblazing performances, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and a deep connection to its city. As a community-supported orchestra, generous giving by individuals and institutions at all levels drives the continued success and growth of the institution. Conductor Leonard Slatkin, who recently concluded an acclaimed decade-long tenure at the helm, now serves as the DSO’s Music Director Laureate, endowed by the Kresge Foundation. Celebrated conductor, arranger, and trumpeter Jeff Tyzik is the orchestra’s Principal Pops Conductor, while the outstanding trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard holds the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Jazz Creative Director Chair. Making its home at historic Orchestra Hall within the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, the DSO offers a performance schedule that features Classical, PNC Pops, Paradise Jazz, and Young People’s Family Concert series. One of America’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, Orchestra Hall will celebrate its centennial in 2019-2020. In addition, the DSO presents the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series in seven metro area venues, as well as a robust schedule of eclectic multi-genre performances in its mid-size venue The Cube, constructed and curated with support from Peter D. & Julie F. Cummings. A dedication 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. With growing attendance and unwavering philanthropic support from the people of Detroit, the DSO actively pursues a mission to embrace and inspire individuals, families, and communities through unsurpassed musical experiences.