GUEST BLOG: Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Over the course of nine years, DTE Community Concerts have evolved into the moment of celebration which ushers in the new season. The unofficial season-launch means the DSO is about to return to Orchestra Hall’s stage.   

David Ellis Academy West music teacher, Darrius Washington, has been bringing students to Community Concerts for five years: “My first encounter with the DSO was when I was in the 8th grade,” says Darrius. “I remember hearing the music and falling in love. I’d never heard classical music before that day. But once I got exposed, I was hooked.” In the photo below, taken at the Greater Grace Temple performance on Friday morning, student La’Miyah has just realized she can spot the woodwind section and Darrius bends down to ask the fifth grader what other orchestra sections she can identify.

This year’s series, conducted by Michigan native Jacob Joyce, took place September 20-22 and included performances in Detroit, Monroe, East China, and Dearborn. The program included a variety of works representative of the DSO’s past 100 years as the 2019-2020 Season will be a year-long celebration of Orchestra Hall’s 100-year anniversary. From the robust cymbal clap in Bizet’s Suite No. 1 from Carmen that the audience responded to with a loud gasp of pleasure, to the horns on Duke Ellington’s Fantasy that had people swaying in their seats, patrons were buzzing with the energy from the stage.  

How are these concerts possible? The DTE Energy Foundation powers the series with a partnership that ensures every seat is free, a factor which is not lost on the many school groups able to attend the daytime dates and the educators who treasure the resource. 

Beverly, an art teacher at Detroit’s Ludington School, plans to leverage her students’ experience at Friday’s performance for long-term learning: “I’m taking pictures of the orchestra so we can draw them later in class, and the band teacher is having music students listen very closely to all the different instruments and pay attention to the sound of the music.”

Each Community Concert ends with an encore led by a special guest conductor chosen from the audience. Friday morning’s conductor was Maya from David Ellis Academy. To the cheers of the crowd, she approached the podium with a straight face, where Joyce handed off his baton and she turned to the orchestra wielding the responsibility of the task at hand. Her face broke out in a huge grin when the song came to a close and she met the gaze of viola James VanValkenburg, who is known for his great smiles of encouragement. 

“My favorite instrument is the violin,” says Maya. “But my favorite part about conducting was listening to the flute section. I’d like to conduct again!”