Detroit Symphony Orchestra marks 40 years of Classical Roots concerts honoring African-American music

Posted on: March 6, 2018

“The idea sounded simple enough. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra would sponsor a concert recognizing African-American contributions to classical music,” writes David Myman in Thursday’s (3/1) Detroit Free Press. “But it was 1978 … and an orchestra in a city where more than half of the population was black [had] just one black musician.… Long before most arts organizations filled their mission statements with words like ‘inclusion’ and ‘diversity’ and ‘outreach,’ the DSO launched a project it hoped would help bridge some of the city’s mighty social chasms. They called it Classical Roots. And 40 years later, it is still a staple of the DSO season. This year’s edition of Classical Roots takes place March 2 and 3.… Joe Striplin remembers it vividly. He was that one black musician. ‘Classical Roots was one of a whole cluster of programs the DSO developed back then,’ says Striplin, who joined the orchestra in 1972. He rattles off a list of initiatives, from fellowships for African-American musicians to a raft of performances in Detroit schools. ‘Things have changed since then,’ says Striplin, a second violinist…. ‘The idea was to help people understand that classical music is not something they should look at as something alien to them. I think we’ve succeeded.’ ”

Posted March 6, 2018