Detroit Symphony’s fate linked to that of hometown

Posted on: June 29, 2010

As part of a larger series of articles about the revitalization of Detroit, Daniel Okrent writes about the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in the July 5 issue of Time. “The DSO is suffering the same hard times plaguing many of the nation’s other symphonic ensembles. … But everything related to the economy is magnified in Michigan, where the unemployment rate is a stomach-churning 13.6%. … Since the orchestra was founded in the 1910s, its fortunes have paralleled the city’s. … [Music Director Leonard] Slatkin, [Executive Director Anne] Parsons, and the DSO’s players are working to reinvent what it means to be a symphony orchestra in 21st century America, convincing new audiences that such an institution is an essential part of the city’s personality. … Among other things, public relations in Detroit means contending with the city’s enduring predicament: race relations. In a city whose population is 90% African American, only three of the DSO’s musicians are black. Rick Robinson, an African American double bassist who grew up in the inner-city enclave of Highland Park … sees music as a potential healer in a region disfigured by racially inflicted scares. Promoting classical music, he says, can help him become ‘a pillar on the bridge between black and white’—a bridge he believes is necessary to the city’s very survival.” Readers can access the full article on the Time website here, but a subscription is required.

Posted June 29, 2010