Gala honors Detroit businessman and philanthropist Mort Harris, with proceeds to support DSO’s commitment to transforming the lives of young people through music education
Event officially kicks off Orchestra Hall’s centennial year celebrations
Detroit, (June 4, 2019) – The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) will be joined by Leslie Odom, Jr. at the ninth annual Heroes Gala and Benefit Concert on Saturday, June 22. The event officially launches the centennial year celebration of the DSO’s historic home Orchestra Hall, which began its construction 100 years ago in June and first opened its doors on October 23, 1919.
Odom, Jr. is well-known for originating the role of Aaron Burr in the Broadway sensation Hamilton; he is also an accomplished recording artist, TV and film actor, and author. Detroit native Damon Gupton, whose career also includes both music and acting, will conduct.
The Heroes Gala honors the remarkable men and women who impact the vision, values, and success of the DSO. This year’s Honoree is Mort Harris. Harris is a decorated World War II veteran, successful Detroit businessman, and generous philanthropist, not just to the DSO but to numerous organizations including Wayne State University and the Henry Ford Health System.
The event begins with red carpet arrivals and a cocktail hour for gala patrons, followed by a formal dinner. The Orchestra Hall concert featuring Odom, Jr. and the DSO begins at 8 p.m. and is open to concert-only guests as well as gala patrons. An afterglow for gala patrons will begin after the concert.
The event takes place at the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center (3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit).
This year’s Heroes Gala Honorary Patrons are Judy and Stanley Frankel and Ann and Jim Nicholson; Honorary Chairs are The Harris Family Children and Grandchildren, Linda Dresner and Edward C. Levy, Sandy Morrison, and Gwen and Evan Weiner. Proceeds from the gala support the DSO’s commitment to transforming the lives of children and youth through music education. Learn more at dso.org/heroes.
About Mort Harris
Mort Harris was born in Detroit in April 1920 and attended Wayne State University, where he paused his engineering studies to join the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II. His heroic military service included flying 33 missions in the B-17 Flying Fortress; for his bravery he was nicknamed the “Berlin Kid” and awarded three U.S. Distinguished Flying Crosses, six Air Medals, a Presidential Unit Citation, the Polish War Order of Virtuti Militari, and the French Légion d’honneur.
After returning home, Harris launched a remarkable business career, founding and co-founding several successful companies. His accomplishments in the business world have allowed him to become a legendary philanthropist; he is one of Wayne State University’s largest donors and recently made the largest single donation on record to Henry Ford Health System (towards the construction of the Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion).
Harris and his late wife Brigette have supported the DSO for decades. Both are recognized as Chairmen Emeriti for their service on the Board of Directors. In 2019 Harris celebrates his 99th year and Orchestra Hall celebrates its 100th; at the Heroes Gala the DSO is thrilled to honor two century-long legacies of impact in Detroit.
About Leslie Odom, Jr.
Tony- and Grammy Award-winning performer Leslie Odom, Jr. has taken the entertainment world by storm across a variety of media – spanning Broadway, television, film, and music. Odom, Jr.’s self-titled debut album was part-funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign and released in 2014 by Borderlight Entertainment, Inc. In June 2016, the album was re-released with additional material and charted at #1 on the Billboard Jazz Music chart. In winter 2017, he re-released his holiday album Simply Christmas as a deluxe edition with new arrangements and new songs. The holiday album hit #1 on iTunes and the Billboard Jazz Music chart.
Best known for his breakout role as Aaron Burr in the smash hit Broadway musical Hamilton, Odom, Jr. received a 2015 Drama Desk Award nomination and won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance. He also won a Grammy Award as a principal soloist on the original cast recording. He made his Broadway debut in Rent and starred in the stage adaption of Leap of Faith. Off-Broadway he appeared in Venice and the original staging of Hamilton, both at the Public Theater. He also starred opposite Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo in a 2014 City Center Encores! revival of Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick...Boom!
Odom, Jr.’s most recent big screen credits include the 2019 thriller Only and the 2017 Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. Previous film work includes the 2012 historical drama Red Tails, executive produced by George Lucas and co-starring Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and David Oyelowo, among others.
On TV, Odom, Jr. starred on the cult-classic musical drama series Smash, created by Theresa Rebeck. He had recurring roles on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and CBS’s Persons of Interest and CSI: Miami. He made guest appearances on such shows as The Good Wife, Gotham, and Showtime’s House of Lies.
In December 2017, Odom, Jr. returned to the New York City stage in a solo concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The cabaret-style performance was crafted around signature songs and music that shaped the artist’s journey, all performed with a world-class band in front of a live audience. The show was filmed for broadcast as an hour-long PBS special as part of the 17-time Emmy Award-winning series Live From Lincoln Center and premiered April 24, 2018.
Last spring, Odom, Jr. added the title of “Author” to his resume with the release of his book Falling Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning. Written in the style of a commencement speech, the book brings together what Odom, Jr. has learned in life so far, tapping into universal themes of starting something new, following your passions, discovering your own potential, and surrounding yourself with the right people. Falling Up is about unlocking your true potential and making your dreams come true even when it seems impossible.
Odom, Jr. currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife, fellow actress Nicolette Robinson, and their newborn daughter.
About Damon Gupton
Damon Gupton is an acclaimed conductor and Detroit native. He graduated from the University of Michigan School of Music and studied conducting with David Zinman and Murry Sidlin at the Aspen Music Festival, as well as Leonard Slatkin at the National Conducting Institute in Washington, DC. Gupton is a regular host of the DSO’s Live from Orchestra Hall: Classroom Edition webcast series and has held fellowship and artistic leadership positions with the Houston Symphony Orchestra and Kansas City Symphony. As a guest conductor, he has appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Monte Carlo Philharmonic, NHK Orchestra, and Orquesta Filarmonica de UNAM.
Also an accomplished actor, Gupton graduated from the Drama Division of The Juilliard School. He appeared in the Broadway production of the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning Clybourne Park, for which he received an Audelco Awards nomination. His TV appearances include Black Lightning, Dirty John, Criminal Minds, Bates Motel, The Player, Suits, The Newsroom, and more; his film credits include Whiplash, La La Land, This is 40, and Unfaithful.