The Detroit Symphony Orchestra celebrates artistic highlights, community impact, and financial successes of the 2017-2018 Season at its Annual Meeting

- On precipice of Orchestra Hall’s centennial year, DSO announces sixth consecutive operating surplus

- DSO to celebrate Mort Harris at Annual Heroes Gala in June 2019

DETROIT, (December 13, 2018) – Today at the Annual Meeting of its Governing Members, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) celebrated the significant artistic and financial achievements and community impact of its 2017-2018 Season, which ended on August 31, 2018. Mark A. Davidoff, Detroit Symphony Orchestra Board Chairman and Michigan Managing Partner at Deloitte, opened the meeting, where the DSO announced an operating surplus for a sixth consecutive year, as well looked back to artistic and fundraising milestones of the previous year.

“As we look back at the previous year, there were many highlights both on stage and in the community,” said Mr. Davidoff. “We did all this while also managing to secure our sixth consecutive balanced budget. While we celebrate all that we have accomplished, we continue to think big and plan for even greater impact in the future.”

At the meeting, DSO President and CEO Anne Parsons shared a broad vision for the future, outlining three long-term thematic goals that are: continuing to achieve fiscal stability as outlined in the DSO’s ten-year plan (“Blueprint 2023”), grow and diversify audiences and constituencies, and align and strengthen the DSO brand and reputation.

“The city of Detroit is changing, the state and the world are changing, and the DSO must continue to change with it,” Ms. Parsons said. “In order to truly be the most accessible orchestra on the planet, we have to deepen and grow the impact of our institutional values, always striving to be more open, inclusive, collaborative, innovative, transparent, and welcoming, all while holding dear our commitment to excellence—artistic and otherwise.”

Ms. Parsons also previewed the upcoming October 2019 centennial of the DSO’s historic home—Orchestra Hall—and shared the news that the organization would celebrate Mort Harris at its annual Heroes Gala in June 2019. 

“Orchestra Hall is one of our most precious assets and without question one of the finest concert halls in the world right here in Detroit,” said Ms. Parsons. “When we were developing our centennial timeline, we realized our Heroes Gala coincides with the 100-year anniversary of the start of Orchestra Hall’s construction, which took only a remarkable four months in the summer of 1919. And so, I am thrilled to announce that DSO Director Emeritus Mort Harris—who at age 98 has lived among us nearly as long as the hall we’ll be commemorating—has agreed to let us honor him as we launch the Orchestra Hall celebration.”


 Throughout 2017-2018, the DSO celebrated Music Director Leonard Slatkin’s tenth and final season in the role before he took on the new title of Music Director Laureate at the beginning of the current season.

 The DSO continued to attract top musical talent to Orchestra Hall. Major artists like Olga Kern, Augustin Hadelich, Daniil Trifonov, Giancarlo Guerrero, Hannu Lintu, Karen Gomyo, Louis Lortie, and Seong-Jin Cho all traveled to a resurgent Detroit to perform with our world-class orchestra.

 It was a banner year for world premieres and performances of contemporary works in Orchestra Hall. A season-long commissioning project tapped six young composers to write concert-opening pieces and introduce audiences to a new generation of musical minds; additionally, the DSO proudly commissioned and premiered Chris Cerrone’s Violin Concerto (with violinist Jennifer Koh) and Lebenbom Award winner Britta Byström’s Many, Yet One.

 The fifth annual winter festival—a programming initiative created by Leonard Slatkin—celebrated the music and culture of France. The three-week French Festival was anchored by six programs in Orchestra Hall conducted by Slatkin, featuring works like Saint-Saën’s Carnival of the Animals, Debussy’s La Mer, and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. There were also chamber recitals, a wine tasting, a romantic evening of chansons on Valentine’s Day, and other events at The Max and throughout the community.

 The seventh season of free Live from Orchestra Hall webcasts, presented by Ford Motor Company Fund and made possible by the Knight Foundation, reached more than 400,000 viewers at and via Facebook Live. DSO Replay, the on-demand archive of past webcasts, continues to be a popular benefit for donors, and the DSO’s YouTube channel racked up 2.5 million views over the course of the season.

 The William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series entered its seventh season and was renewed for an additional five thanks to continued support from the William Davidson Foundation. The DSO returned to seven Metro Detroit venues—in Southfield, Clinton Township, Beverly Hills, West Bloomfield, Plymouth, Bloomfield Hills, and Grosse Pointe— to perform for audiences close to their homes and deepen the orchestra’s connection with fans and supporters in southeast Michigan. The William Davidson Chamber Recital Series featured small ensembles of DSO musicians in intimate community spaces both in and around Detroit.

 With a new title sponsorship from PNC Bank, the PNC Pops Series continued to grow in both attendance and revenue. Some of the season’s most popular programs included Home for the Holidays (a Detroit tradition and regular sellout), Women Rock! (conducted by Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik), Positively Pops (a tribute to the legendary Arthur Fiedler), and The Music of Harry Potter (so in demand that a second show was added).

 Teen piano phenom Joey Alexander made his much-anticipated Detroit debut on the Orchestra Hall stage to kick off the Paradise Jazz Series season—which also included performances by Jason Moran, Kenny Barron, and others. After a red-hot concert in Orchestra Hall, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra even strutted across the William Davidson Atrium to play, unannounced, at a Swing Dance Party in The Cube.

 The Cube celebrated its second season with the support of Peter D. and Julie F. Cummings. The performance space presented four times as many performances as the previous year, with an audience of nearly 7,000 (many new to the DSO and The Cube) and featuring more than 300 artists from Detroit and around the world in a variety of genres from R&B and cabaret to classical and contemporary music.

 The Classical Roots Celebration and Benefit Concert celebrated its 40th anniversary in March with a black-tie benefit that raised nearly $340,000 to support increased opportunities for African- Americans in classical music. This year’s honorees were outgoing Andrew W. Mellon Foundation President Earl Lewis and trailblazing tenor (and Detroiter) George Shirley. Thanks to new support from the Mellon Foundation announced at the event, the DSO has now been able to increase the number of African-American Orchestra Fellows from one to two, as well as add a new initiative to the Classical Roots mission: the African-American Composer Residency.

 The DSO’s summer was busier than usual: in addition to performing for more than 50,000 people at the annual Salute to America and Ford House concerts, the orchestra appeared with Roger Daltrey (co-founder and lead vocalist of The Who) at Meadow Brook Amphitheatre and had the honor of inaugurating the new Great Lakes Center for the Arts (in Bay Harbor, MI) by playing at the center’s grand opening gala.

 The DSO debuted the “Mobile Maxcast,” a concert presentation displayed on a large screen attached to a specially-designed mobile video truck. A winner of the Knight Arts Challenge, the Mobile Maxcast initiative was debuted at June’s Palmer Park Art Fair in Detroit, with the aim of expanding the idea to other parks and community spaces around the city.

 The training ensembles of the Wu Family Academy reached more than 950 participants, with a banner year for the Civic Youth Ensembles (CYE), and the Detroit Community Ensembles, comprising adult amateur musicians ranging in age from 19 to 73.

 In March, the DSO announced the formation of the Dresner Foundation Allegro Ensemble, a new entry-level CYE violin training program, thanks to support from the Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation. The program launched this school year for 36 eager third-graders at Duke Ellington Conservatory of Music and Art, a DPSCD school on Detroit’s east side.

 With the generous support of the Applebaum Family Foundation, the DSO continued its partnership with gallerist Steve Panton and Essay’d to present Art @ The Max throughout all four levels of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center. A multi-stage, multi-year project, Art @ The Max displays Detroit-area visual art with the mission of broadening audience engagement and elevating local artists in Detroit.

 In addition to performances in Orchestra Hall and The Cube, the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center hosted concerts, community partnerships, weddings, bat mitzvahs, meetings, receptions, and education partnerships throughout the season, opening our doors to the community to hold at least one event 340 days of the year.


• For the fiscal year ended August 31, 2018, the DSO’s income statement reflects an operating surplus for the sixth consecutive year. This achievement comes following annual operating revenue of $28.76 million, with operating expenses of $28.72 million.

• Earned revenue totaled $8.96 million, including $7.32 million in gross ticket revenue, an increase of 1 percent in ticket sales from FY17. This was the fourth consecutive year of increased ticket revenue.

• As announced at an event in October 2017, the William Davidson Foundation, a longtime supporter of the DSO, has pledged a new gift of $15 million to the orchestra, which includes continued sponsorship of the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series and a $5 million challenge grant to the DSO’s permanent endowment. Their appeal was immediately supported by three other foundations—The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, and the Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation—which pledged a combined $3.5 million to the DSO’s endowment. In recognition for the foundation’s leadership, the DSO named its central, four-story atrium the William Davidson Atrium.

• $17.53 million in donations supported operations with an additional $6.8 million in gifts added to the endowment. The DSO’s Governing Members—individuals who give at least $2,500 each year and are voting members of the organization—grew by 12 households to 439 people.

• One new endowed chair was added to the DSO’s orchestra roster: violinist Alexandros Sakarellos now holds the Drs. Doris Tong and Teck Soo Chair.

• $1.2 million was raised at the 2018 Heroes Gala honoring Music Director Leonard Slatkin and longtime DSO supporters Penny and Harold Blumenstein.


Board of Directors—The DSO’s fiduciary cohort, charged with issues of accountability, strategic thinking, and cultural stewardship.

Shirley Stancato was newly elected to the Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting, to serve in that capacity for a term of three years, following five years as Chair of the Diversity and Equity Task-Force on the Board of Trustees. Her dedication and leadership helped to shape the direction of that task-force, which in September was approved to become a standing board committee and renamed the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.

Xavier Mosquet was reelected as a Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for a one-year term, and the following were reelected as Directors of the DSO for three-year terms: Marco Bruzzano, Samuel Fogleman, Herman B. Gray, Jr., Daniel Kaufman, Stephen R. Polk, Arn Tellem, and Janice Uhlig.

The following officers were appointed to lead Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Inc. for the term of one year:

  Mark A. Davidoff, Chairman

  Glenda D. Price, Ph.D., Vice Chair

  Anne Parsons, President & CEO

  Faye Alexander Nelson, Treasurer

  Arthur T. O’Reilly, Secretary

  Ralph J. Gerson, Officer-at-large

  Nancy Schlichting, Officer-at-large

  Janice Uhlig, Officer-at-large

Board of Trustees—Chaired by Ric Huttenlocher, this group is tasked with fostering and nurturing innovation, creativity, and organizational learning. Trustees focus on strategic projects that help advance the DSO in the areas of branding, digital, and community engagement.

The following individuals were newly appointed to the Board of Trustees at the meeting:

  Robert H. Bluestein

  Karen Cullen

  Margaret Cooney Casey

  Carolynn Frankel

  Christa Funk

  Mary Ann Gorlin

  Laura Grannemann

  Don Hiruo

  Laurie Rosen

  Marc Schwartz

Governing Members—voting members who elect members of the Board of Directors and dedicate themselves to outreach, advocacy, and philanthropy.

At the meeting, chairwoman Janice Bernick thanked the Governing Members officers as well as announced that the number of Governing Members had increased to 439, with 12 new households joining in the previous year.

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.