Not everyone can say they’ve flown a helicopter, or driven a NASCAR at the Michigan International Speedway, but Dr. Raymond Skowronski’s family has a habit of making his dreams come true and helping him cross off items on his proverbial bucket list. But in his mind, daring speeds and soaring heights didn’t quite compare to what was next – conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
“My family is always surprising me. I said something in passing about a year ago, and I don’t know how they did, but they made it happen,” Skowronski said. “Since I was a little boy, it was always a dream of mine to conduct a world-class orchestra.”
While this was Skowronski’s first time at the helms of an orchestra, he has spent more than 40 years on the other side, taking cues and performing as a professional tenor saxophone player. Before he and his wife had their three children, Skowronski started the band “Fifth Avenue” and played gigs and local hot spots around Detroit. Yet the role of conductor is one he always coveted.
“It was exhilarating to be conducting and cueing the piccolos and flutes and all the instruments throughout the performance,” he said half laughing. “Of course, they’re some of the most well-trained performers in the world, and probably didn’t even need me. But just to be standing there as it all unfolded under my command was the thrill of a lifetime.”
On Sept. 30, Skowronski led the final song as the “guest conductor” of the seventh annual Community Concert Series at Clawson High School. Presented by the DTE Energy Foundation, the Community Concert Series brings the full DSO orchestra to local venues throughout the region to perform a free concert for communities. This year, the four free community concerts took place in Dearborn, Detroit, Clawson and St. Clair Shores.
“The DSO free community concert series provides everyone with the opportunity to experience, appreciate and learn about music from an outstanding symphony orchestra,” said Faye Nelson, vice president at DTE Energy, and board chair and president of the DTE Energy Foundation. “Music and the arts are integral to a strong quality of life. Through the support of this historic cultural institution and its programs, the DTE Energy Foundation is ensuring that people across Southeast Michigan have access to a world-class organization that inspires and infuses our communities with art.”
For Skowronski, this Father’s Day present was the gift of a lifetime.
“Family is the most important thing there is, and I’m lucky to have one that wants me to truly enjoy this life,” he said. “They’re always full of surprises, and this is one of the best ones.”