DSO brings together board members, administrators, musicians, and community members to look at the orchestra’s role in a changing Detroit and region

Inclusion, Enrichment, and Expression: DSO will evaluate and improve programs based on upholding diversity, improving the quality of life of participants, and elevating artistic creativity

New programs will include free entry-level instrumental instruction for elementary school children and private lessons for intermediate students, further removing barriers to participation

Learn more online at #DSOImpact

Detroit – The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) has announced the Social Progress Initiative, an ongoing assessment of its community impact through programs that serve hundreds of thousands of people each year across greater Detroit. The project’s efforts will help the DSO prioritize resources, incorporate fresh thinking into existing programs, and create new programs to serve critical needs of the community. (Several of these new and forthcoming programs are listed below.)

Under the leadership of Music Director Leonard Slatkin, the DSO has increasingly been engaged with the community it serves. The William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series is in seven communities across Metro Detroit; free community performances by the full orchestra and intimate chamber music recitals are presented in venues such as hospitals, senior centers, places of worship, and schools; Live from Orchestra Hall presents free live webcasts of every classical subscription concert, and Classroom Edition provides free live and on-demand webcasts of concerts to schools, both in Detroit and around the world.

The Social Progress Initiative seeks to create a sharper definition of the role the DSO has in society and how to build upon current efforts. Detroit’s resurgence is a powerful force for social progress, and it has been proven across the country that the arts greatly aid community revitalization efforts. As focus builds on the neighborhoods in and around Detroit, the DSO is committed to providing access to music for all people of our communities.

Through the work of the Social Progress Initiative, the DSO has identified three areas of impact in which it will evaluate existing programs and prioritize new programming: Inclusion, which is upholding diversity as a core value; Enrichment, which is improving the quality of life of participants; and Expression, which is elevating artistic creativity. At all times, the DSO will seek to remove barriers to music access and participation.

“We have an opportunity and an obligation to drive social progress in our city,” said DSO Chairman Mark Davidoff, Michigan Managing Partner of Deloitte LLP. “We aim to improve communication about the outstanding work the DSO already does in the community and assess current and new programs using specific metrics for success.”

“The DSO has this work in its DNA,” said DSO President & CEO Anne Parsons, “and our vision for this work continues to grow. Next week, the orchestra world will convene in Detroit for the League of American Orchestras National Conference. The conference will explore the transformation of orchestras in a changing landscape, and we look forward to sharing how the DSO is redefining what makes a successful orchestra in its community while upholding artistic excellence.”

Mr. Davidoff and Ms. Parsons convened the Social Progress Initiative in November 2016, bringing together DSO board members from three different committees (the Education Steering Committee, the Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, and the Community Engagement Committee), with musicians, staff, and community representatives. Since that time, the group’s members have engaged in dialogue to connect the work of the individual committees and to lead a comprehensive review of DSO programs. They have also begun to imagine ways to broaden access, increase impact, and foster new ideas.

The Social Progress Initiative has been led by the following board leadership: Pamela Applebaum, Board of Directors; Robert Gillette, Community Engagement Committee Chair, Board of Trustees; Shirley Stancato, Diversity & Inclusion Task Force Chair, Board of Trustees; and Hon. Kurtis T. Wilder, Education Steering Committee Chair, Board of Directors.

“We seek to address inequity across the region and provide greater access to the lifelong benefits of participation in the arts,” said Ms. Stancato, President and CEO of New Detroit. “In this community, that’s going to have racial implications, that’s going to have socio-economic implications, and that’s going to have geographic implications. We want the DSO to be intentional in addressing these issues and remain in constant dialogue with the communities we seek to embrace.”

“Research shows us that arts education has an enormous impact on underserved youth,” said Herman Gray, President and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan and a member of the DSO Board of Directors. “We also know that music can be a tool that improves the quality of life for so many people. I want to thank my fellow DSO board members for their important work on this project. The DSO’s programs will continue to have a tremendous role in shaping the future of our city.”

In early May, the full DSO Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve the work of the group and its vision statement: “The DSO’s Social Progress Initiative is a commitment to continuous dialogue and action that leverages the power of music to improve the quality of life for all people of greater Detroit.”

The DSO is excited to be launching several new programs and plans under the leadership of Caen Thomason-Redus, Senior Director of Community and Learning, that will implement the findings and directives from the Social Progress Initiative:

Announced in March, the new Dresner Foundation Allegro Ensemble will provide free entry-level instrumental instruction for underserved youth in Detroit as part of the DSO’s Civic Youth Ensembles (CYE). The DSO will provide an instrument and all materials to students, and will commit to providing scholarships as they progress in the CYE. Beginning this fall, the Allegro Ensemble will be an afterschool program in Detroit, and through a partnership with a community organization, offer instruction entirely in a Detroit neighborhood rather than in Midtown, further lowering barriers to entry.

The grant from the Dresner Foundation to establish the Allegro Ensemble will also enable the DSO to expand the reach of its long-running Educational Concert Series (ECS) for students, in Orchestra Hall as well as the webcast series of these performances, Live from Orchestra Hall: Classroom Edition, to Detroit-area schools and around the world.

The DSO is also taking steps to further diversify its Civic Youth Ensemble programs by working directly with schools and other youth development organizations on recruitment efforts for young musicians. Already nearly 1,000 students from the Greater Detroit area receive ensemble performance instruction in CYE groups provided by the DSO each year.

The DSO will soon introduce a free lesson program, allowing for the waiving of fees for young people to receive private instrumental performance instruction. This program will also expand work-study options so that no student is turned away because of financial need. More details on this program will be announced at a future date.

The DSO’s African-American Fellowship Program seeks to address the shortage of African-Americans in professional orchestras by offering a yearlong fellowship with the orchestra. The program, which is the most in-depth of its kind in the country, will expand next season to offer a second young professional musician (in this case, a strings fellowship) the opportunity to perform with and receive mentorship from the DSO.

Last fall, the DSO introduced the Detroit Community Orchestra, an opportunity for adult amateur violinists, violists, cellists, and bassists to rehearse and perform with peers and DSO musicians. The orchestra was so successful that the DSO is pleased to be expanding the program next season by inaugurating the new Detroit Community Wind Ensemble for amateur woodwind, brass, and percussion players. Those interested in participating in either ensemble can find more information at

Next season, the DSO will also launch a new youth chorus as one of its Civic Youth Ensembles. This ensemble will be open to high school chorus singers by audition only and will perform advanced literature with opportunities to learn from professional singers, participate in master classes, work with orchestras and other music ensembles, and perform on the historic Orchestra Hall stage. Those who are interested in participating can find more information at

The DSO is proud to partner with several community organizations to provide services for citizens of Wayne County at the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center in Midtown Detroit. Partners at the Max include: FAR Therapeutic Arts and Recreation, which provides creative arts therapy to the special needs community; Detroit Youth Volume, which teaches youth ages 3-18 to play violin and viola using the Suzuki method through weekly private and group lessons; Motor City Music Together, in which fully trained, registered teachers lead groups of six to twelve pre-K children and their parents or caregivers in music and movement experiences; and Detroit Children’s Choir, made up of over 300 children ages 8-18 from a variety of cultures and backgrounds across Southeast Michigan, who receive instruction in music literacy, sight reading skills, and vocal technique, along with performance opportunities.


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