Jader Bignamini conducts Beethoven's Eighth Symphony and world premiere of Carlos Simon's Troubled Water with DSO Principal Trombone Kenneth Thompkins, May 5-7

Simon’s Troubled Water for Trombone and Orchestra, commissioned by the DSO, is based on accounts of people seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad

May 6 performance webcast for free at dso.org and via Facebook Live as part of DSO’s Live from Orchestra Hall series; May 5 concert broadcast and streamed live on 90.9 WRCJ in Detroit and network of stations across Michigan

Sponsored by Varnum LLP, the DSO will present additional community events surrounding the world premiere including a Chamber Recital on May 3, an open rehearsal with compositional students, and a self-guided walking tour in Detroit featuring stops with significance to the Underground Railroad

Tickets on sale now at dso.org

Detroit, (April 11, 2023) – The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) will continue its PVS Classical Series at Orchestra Hall on May 5-7 with a program including the world premiere of a new work by Carlos Simon, plus works by Beethoven (Symphony No. 8) and Brahms (Variations on a Theme by Haydn).

The DSO under Music Director Jader Bignamini will perform the world premiere of Simon’s Troubled Water for Trombone and Orchestra with DSO Principal Trombone Kenneth Thompkins as featured soloist. The work was written for Thompkins and is based on Underground Railroad conductor William Still’s account of the hardships and struggles of enslaved people seeking freedom at any cost. Learn more about the piece on the DSO’s blog or Between 2 Stands podcast (listen here or your favorite podcast platform).

The program will also include Brahms’s imaginative Variations on a Theme by Haydn and Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony, one of his most jovial works and containing some of his cleverest musical humor.

With sponsorship support from Varnum LLP, the DSO will also present community events surrounding the world premiere including a chamber recital on May 3; an open rehearsal with compositional students from schools including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University; and a self-guided walking tour featuring stops with significance to the Underground Railroad. Further details on these events will be announced as they are confirmed.

At the May 3 chamber recital, DSO musicians Heidi Han (violin), Sujin Lim (violin), Will Haapaniemi (viola), and Jeremy Crosmer (cello) will perform a program centered around a theme of migration. The recital will include Simon’s Warmth From Other Suns, which is inspired by author Isabel Wilkerson’s book The Warmth of Other Suns and tells the story of the Great Migration through the voice of a string quartet. Tickets to this performance are free yet must be reserved in advance. Additional details will be announced as they are confirmed.

Beethoven's Eighth & Simon’s Trombone Concerto will take place Friday, May 5 at 10:45 a.m., Saturday, May 6 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, May 7 at 3 p.m. at Orchestra Hall.

The May 6 performance will also be webcast for free at dso.org and via Facebook Live as part of the DSO’s Live from Orchestra Hall series.

Tickets for Beethoven’s Eighth & Simon’s Trombone Concerto start at $19 and can be purchased at dso.org or by calling the Box Office at 313.576.5111, open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

2022-2023 SEASON DSO SAFETY POLICIES: The DSO no longer requires audiences to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend performances. Masks are optional although strongly recommended at DSO performances, particularly when Wayne County and surrounding communities are in the high or "red" category as defined by the CDC. The DSO asks audience members to do their part to create a safe environment for everyone and encourages those who are not feeling well to stay home.

The title sponsor of the DSO’s Classical Series is PVS Chemicals, Inc. DSO Live is presented by Ford Motor Company Fund and made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Digital programming is produced from the Al Glancy Control Room. Community events surrounding the premiere of Carlos Simon’s Troubled Water are sponsored by Varnum LLP.


PVS Classical Series
Friday, May 5 at 10:45 a.m.
Saturday, May 6 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, May 7 at 3 p.m.
Orchestra Hall
Jader Bignamini, conductor
Kenneth Thompkins, trombone
Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony is one of his most jovial works and contains some of the composer’s cleverest musical humor as well as bouncy dance rhythms with unexpected accents. Principal Trombone Kenneth Thompkins performs the world premiere of a concerto written for him by Carlos Simon, based on Underground Railroad conductor William Still’s account of the hardships and struggles of the enslaved seeking freedom at any cost. The program opens with Brahms’ imaginative variations on a majestic theme.
JOHANNES BRAHMS Variations on a Theme by Haydn
CARLOS SIMON Troubled Water for Trombone and Orchestra (world premiere)

Related Event:

Location to be announced
Wednesday, May 3 at 7 p.m.
Heidi Han, violin
Sujin Lim, violin
Will Haapaniemi, viola
Jeremy Crosmer, cello
Join DSO musicians for a chamber recital in celebration of the world premiere of Carlos Simon’s Troubled Water for Trombone and Orchestra, which premieres at Orchestra Hall May 5-7. This recital centers around a theme of migration and will include Simon’s Warmth From Other Suns, which is inspired by author Isabel Wilkerson’s book The Warmth of Other Suns and tells the story of the Great Migration through the voice of a string quartet.


About Jader Bignamini
Jader Bignamini was introduced as the 18th music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in January 2020, commencing with the 2020-2021 season. He kicked off his tenure as DSO Music Director with the launch of DSO Digital Concerts in September 2020, conducting works by Copland, Puccini, Tchaikovsky, and Saint-Georges. His infectious passion and artistic excellence set the tone for the season ahead, creating extraordinary music and establishing a close relationship with the orchestra. A jazz aficionado, he has immersed himself in Detroit’s rich jazz culture and the influences of American music.

A native of Crema, Italy, Jader studied at the Piacenza Music Conservatory and began his career as a musician (clarinet) with Orchestra Sinfonica La Verdi in Milan, later serving as the group’s resident conductor. Captivated by the operatic arias of legends like Mahler and Tchaikovsky, Jader explored their complexity and power, puzzling out the role that each instrument played in creating a larger-than-life sound. When he conducted his first professional concert at the age of 28, it didn’t feel like a departure, but an arrival.

In the years since, Jader has conducted some of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras and opera companies in venues across the globe including working with Riccardo Chailly on concerts of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in 2013 and his concert debut at La Scala in 2015 for the opening season of La Verdi Orchestra. Recent highlights include debuts with the Houston, Dallas, and Minnesota symphonies; Osaka Philharmonic and Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo; with the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, and Dutch National Opera (Madama Butterfly); Bayerische Staatsoper (La Traviata); I Puritani in Montpellier for the Festival of Radio France; Traviata in Tokyo directed by Sofia Coppola; return engagements with Oper Frankfurt (La forza del destino) and Santa Fe Opera (La Bohème); Manon Lescaut at the Bolshoi; Traviata, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot at Arena of Verona; Il Trovatore and Aida at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera; Madama Butterfly, I Puritani, and Manon Lescaut at Teatro Massimo in Palermo; Simon Boccanegra and La Forza del Destino at the Verdi Festival in Parma; Ciro in Babilonia at Rossini Opera Festival and La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Elisir d’amore at La Fenice in Venice.

When Jader leads an orchestra in symphonic repertoire, he conducts without a score, preferring to make direct eye contact with the musicians. He conducts from the heart, forging a profound connection with his musicians that shines through both onstage and off. He both embodies and exudes the excellence and enthusiasm that has long distinguished the DSO’s artistry.

About Kenneth Thompkins
Kenneth Thompkins was appointed Principal Trombone of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra by Neeme Järvi. Prior to this appointment, he held positions in the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Florida Orchestra and performed with the New World Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. A former participant in the Detroit Symphony’s African American Orchestra Fellowship program, he has been a mentor to several DSO African American Orchestra Fellows over the years.

Thompkins has been invited to perform and conduct masterclasses at many music schools, including the Curtis Institute of Music, Mannes College, the University of Michigan, and Interlochen Arts Academy. An active chamber musician, he performs frequently in recitals and is a member of the Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings. Thompkins has performed concertos with both the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and New World Symphony.

Thompkins has toured Europe with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and has also performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He can be heard on recordings by the Detroit Chamber Winds, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. His solo trombone recording; Sonatas, Songs, and Spirituals features the music of Alec Wilder, Philip Wharton, Stephen A. Taylor, and William Grant Still. Sonatas, Songs, and Spirituals is the winner of The American Prize in Instrumental Performance, 2018-2019. He has also contributed a chapter to The Brass Player's Cookbook: Creative Recipes for a Successful Performance.

Thompkins received his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, where he studied with the late Frank Crisafulli of the Chicago Symphony, and his master’s degree from Temple University, where he studied with Eric Carlson of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

About Carlos Simon
“My dad, he always gets on me. He wants me to be a preacher, but I always tell him, ‘Music is my pulpit. That’s where I preach,’” Carlos Simon reflected for The Washington Post’s “Composers and Performers to Watch in 2022” list.

Having grown up in Atlanta, with a long lineage of preachers and connections to gospel music to inspire him, Simon proves that a well-composed song can indeed be a sermon. His compositions span genres—jazz, gospel, and contemporary classical music are noticeable influences—and can be found everywhere from film scores to concert music.

Simon is the current Composer-in-Residence for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and frequently writes for the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera, with the 2022-2023 season seeing premieres with Boston Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Art Song Society, and Minnesota Orchestra—a large-scale tribute to George Floyd and the ongoing movement for racial justice. 

These follow recent other commissions from the likes of New York Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic, and performances from Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, and American Ballet Theatre.

A “young composer on the rise, with an ear for social justice” (NPR), Simon’s latest album, Requiem for the Enslaved, is a multi-genre musical tribute to commemorate the stories of the 272 enslaved men, women, and children sold in 1838 by Georgetown University, and was nominated for a 2023 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. Released by Decca in June 2022, this work sees Simon infuse his original compositions with African American spirituals and familiar Catholic liturgical melodies, performed by Hub New Music Ensemble, Marco Pavé, and MK Zulu.

Acting as music director and keyboardist for Grammy Award-winner Jennifer Holliday, Simon has performed with the Boston Pops Symphony, the Jackson Symphony, and the St. Louis Symphony. He has also toured internationally with Grammy Award-nominated soul artist Angie Stone and has performed throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. 

Simon earned his doctorate degree at the University of Michigan, where he studied with Michael Daugherty and Evan Chambers. He has also received degrees from Georgia State University and Morehouse College. He is an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Music Sinfonia Fraternity and a member of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Society of Composers International, and Pi Kappa Lambda Music Honor Society. He has served as a member of the music faculty at Spelman College and Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University. Simon was also a recipient of the 2021 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, the highest honor bestowed by the Sphinx Organization to recognize extraordinary classical Black and Latinx musicians and was named a Sundance/Time Warner Composer Fellow for his work for film and moving image.

About the DSO
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 organization. In January 2020, Italian conductor Jader Bignamini was named the DSO’s next music director to commence with the 2020-2021 season. Celebrated conductor, arranger, and trumpeter Jeff Tyzik is the orchestra’s Principal Pops Conductor, while Oscar-nominated trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard holds the Fred A. 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 PVS Classical, PNC Pops, Paradise Jazz, and Young People’s Family Concert series. One of the world’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, Orchestra Hall celebrated 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 live radio broadcast of a concert and continues today with the groundbreaking Live from Orchestra Hall series of free webcasts, 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.