The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) has announced the successful funding of phase one of Detroit Harmony, a major initiative to collaboratively expand the role of music in supporting the educational and social development of Detroit’s school children, while also growing economic opportunity for Detroit citizens through the provision of instruments and music education.
Through a collaborative citywide effort, Detroit Harmony will put an instrument into the hands of every K-12 public, private, and charter school student in the city who wants to learn to play. At the same time, the program will be intentionally structured to bolster economic and workforce development in Detroit, including bringing new jobs to teaching artists, transportation providers, and skilled tradespeople to restore and bring life back to used instruments, plus job training and professional development resources for workers.
The DSO is currently recruiting for a project director to lead Detroit Harmony’s 18-month planning phase. Major support for this initial stage was provided by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation.
Building upon the extensive community and education programs offered by the DSO’s Wu Family Academy for Learning and Engagement, Detroit Harmony stems from the commitment the DSO made in 2017 to improving the quality of life for all Detroiters as the central tenet of the orchestra’s Social Progress Initiative. This was followed by many months of focused discussions with stakeholders across the city and the development of a conceptual design document that addressed the most consistent and critical concerns regarding barriers to both music education and economic opportunity. Through Detroit Harmony, the DSO seeks to create systemic change in the city of Detroit and believes that the program’s ultimate success will be predicated on inclusive and broad-reaching collaborations with like-minded organizations.
“The DSO has the responsibility and the opportunity to drive social progress forward for a stronger Detroit, and every child in our city will again have the opportunity to explore all that music has to offer in learning to play an instrument,” said Mark Davidoff, Chairman of the DSO’s Board of Directors. “As a leader in music education and a stakeholder in the economic success and creative vibrancy of Detroit, the DSO believes it can and must play a leadership role in building extraordinary partnerships between schools, arts and culture program providers, and funders that can fulfill this mandate.”
“Access to music education and arts-based learning is exercise for a child’s brain, bringing with it a myriad of benefits that can unlock their creative potential and help drive academic success,” said Amber Slichta, Vice President of Programs, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “The Detroit Harmony project, through this planning process, has a great opportunity to strategically build a program that’s inclusive of national expertise, local educators, afterschool providers, and parent voices.”
Caroline Cummings Rafferty, chair of the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation’s Arts & Culture committee added, “My grandmother and grandfather were deeply committed to supporting the work of the leaders, musicians, and educators of the Detroit Symphony. My father Peter, my uncle Phillip, and so many in the family have built on that passion. Detroit Harmony is the latest important contribution and investment the DSO has made in the creative education of our city’s youth, and we are grateful to be a part of it.”
“The Detroit Symphony Orchestra thanks the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation for their investment in helping us build a program that is going to change countless lives for the better,” said Anne Parsons, President and CEO of the DSO. “Through Detroit Harmony, the DSO envisions a time when a culture of music-making defines the experience of growing up in Detroit, when every child will have universal access to music education and every teacher in every school in Detroit will have tools to incorporate arts-based learning into curricula.”