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Modest surplus achieved for second consecutive year with increases in annual giving, donor base and subscription sales

Three multi-million dollar gifts ensure expansion of DSO classical music education and outreach programs into Detroit neighborhoods

DSO artistic and executive leadership extend commitments through 2016-17 season

DETROIT, (December 11, 2014) – At today’s annual meeting of the Governing Members, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) announced that Fiscal Year 2014 achieved a second consecutive modest surplus, in line with Blueprint: 2023, the organization’s 10-year plan. This achievement owes in large part to annual contributions of $17.4 million, exceeding budgeted goals. This is the third consecutive year of increased individual giving ($5.4 million), donor base (10,350 donors) and subscription sales growth (13,760 subscriptions). Fiscal Year 2014 concluded on August 31, 2014 and represents the 2013-14 concert season.

The meeting opened with videos featuring DSO musicians reflecting on favorite DSO memories and what the organization means to them. Chairman Phillip Wm. Fisher brought the meeting to order by recounting Fiscal Year 2014’s biggest accomplishments. Some 250 DSO Directors, Trustees, Governing Members, Volunteer Council members, community leaders, orchestra musicians and staff members were in attendance.

“When I personally reflect on 2014, my second full year as Chairman of the Board of Directors, I’m incredibly proud of your role, the DSO’s resilience and our ability not just to meet, but exceed the ambitious goals we set for ourselves last December,” said Fisher. “I am constantly inspired by the many stakeholders that comprise our oneDSO family.”

Following a musical performance by DSO musicians, Fisher introduced three presentations from volunteer leadership who oversee task forces formed during FY 14.

  • Josh Linkner, Founding Partner of Detroit Venture Partners and DSO Trustee leads the Branding Taskforce and presented a brand narrative toolkit. Based on the foundational phrase “We Move You,” the toolkit included key messages for consideration in marketing, recruitment, advertising and more.
  • Shirley R. Stancato, President and CEO of New Detroit, Inc. and former DSO director, leads the Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce, and spoke about a shared framework for shaping a more diverse DSO, from the audience, to the staff, to the stage.
  • Arthur T. O’Reilly, Partner at Honigman and DSO Officer-at-Large and Secretary, leads the Re-Visioning Taskforce and in partnership with Vinicius Gorgati, a representative from Boston-based planning and design firm Sasaki, presented renderings depicting the possible shape the Max M. Fisher Music Center campus could take in the future, envisioning how the DSO might set the pace for the next generation of an evolving Midtown and Detroit.

Assistant Conductor Michelle Merrill, who began her tenure with the DSO in the fall, gave the Keynote address on the future of learning and engagement at the DSO. An introduction to many new initiatives, highlights included:

  • A seven-figure, multi-million dollar grant from Clyde and Helen Wu to found the Wu Family Academy for Learning and Engagement (read more about this initiative later in the press release)
  • a non-profit incubation lab made possible by the Ford Foundation that fosters administrative and programmatic capacity building as collaborators with prestigious partners like the Sphinx Organization and Detroit Children’s Choir
  • activities governed by our Next Gen committee of young professionals including Mix @ the Max, Om @ The Max (yoga classes with live music accompaniment) and Assemble @ The Max (speaker series)
  • Tod Machover’s Symphony in D project in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
  • Live From Orchestra Hall: Classroom Edition supported by the Mandell and Madeleine Berman Foundation
  • Knight Arts Challenge project: A multi-day festival exploring music’s role in the revitalization of two cities in peril: Detroit and New Orleans
  • Outreach work: small ensembles and individual DSO musicians delivered more than 400 community engagement services throughout our city last season; music therapy, hospital lobby concerts, master classes and sectionals for aspiring musicians, chamber music recitals, special performances for seniors, featured appearances at major civic events, and more

“We are a world-class orchestra, we are a community of musical lovers, and we are an epicenter of artistic expression where established and emerging partners feel at home,” said Merrill. “We are revolutionizing how a city experiences music and we are an educational powerhouse dedicated to changing lives.”

The membership unanimously elected Judge Gerald E. Rosen to the DSO board of directors alongside the renewal of 13 directors for additional terms of services. Rosen was nominated by President George Bush to the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in November, 1989 and was invested in March 1990. Judge Rosen became Chief Judge of the Court January 1, 2009.

President and CEO Anne Parsons closed the meeting with remarks about where the DSO is headed, and how important behavior and values are to that work.

“Projecting ourselves as welcoming, inviting and inclusive, we aspire to serve as a magnet, a beacon or standard, open, available, transparent, even porous; a cultural and community destination that is sticky in the most attractive sense of that word, reaching out as much as welcoming in.”

The Annual Meeting was immediately followed by a meeting of the DSO Board of Directors, who completed the following items of business:

The Board of Directors

  • Appointed new directors emeriti to honor their distinguished service. See the full list later in the press release
  • Appointed two new officers of the Board of Directors. See the full roster later in the press release
  • Recognized the distinguished service of three retiring officers: Chacona Johnson, Bruce Peterson, and Arthur Weiss
  • Appointed three new trustees. See their names later in the press release

Fisher closed the meeting by announcing that Anne Parsons, president and CEO, and Music Director Leonard Slatkin have both extended their commitments to the DSO through the 2016-17 season.

“Nothing makes me happier than to continue the working and personal relationship with Anne Parsons,” said Slatkin. “Together, we have made incredible strides in putting the DSO on solid finical and artistic paths.  Solidifying the future for the next several seasons is yet another step in the ongoing growth for the Detroit Symphony family.”

2013-14 At-a-Glance                                                                                 

  • 2013-14 season = second consecutive operating surplus
  • Subscription sales – in terms of revenue, units sold, and households subscribing – grew across every product for the third consecutive season
  • $17.4 million in fundraising supported operations with an additional $5.6 raised toward endowment
  • 500,000+ = total audience across metro Detroit and around the world via Live From Orchestra Hall webcast series
  • 765= number of applicants, from across the globe, for 10 orchestra auditions
  • $1.2 million=amount raised at the 2013 Heroes Gala honoring Dan Gilbert and Matt Cullen following a performance conducted by John Williams and narrated by Steven Spielberg

Blueprint 2023                                                                                 


Revealed at the 2012 Annual Meeting, Blueprint 2023 is the DSO’s industry-leading 10-year plan for recapitalization. Conceived by the Recapitalization Task Force (a collaborative team representing DSO stakeholder groups), the plan posits that more concerts in more venues across our community coupled with rebuilding audiences, sustaining a thriving annual fund and slowing the growth rate of expenses is a winning formula for recapitalization.  The framework for a sustainable, viable future for the DSO is predicated on four, interconnected considerations:

  1. Build and maintain an impactful audience size
  2. Nurture a robust, realistic and sustainable level of annual giving
  3. Across all expenditures, prioritize the investment in people
  4. Achieve adequate long-term capitalization in terms of net endowment

FY 14 represented Year 1 of Blueprint 2023 and progress was measured monthly using eight “dashboard metrics” correlated to annual goals and based on levels needed to reach 2023 targets.

Year-end dashboard metrics:




Contracted musicians



Cash on hand

$2.2 million

$4 million

Ticket sales

$6.45 million

$6.71 million

Classical subscribing households



Individual donors



Digital Media audienceYTD webcast audience

YouTube Subscribers

Facebook fans

Twitter followers







Rental, Retail, Food/bev revenue



EducationCYE roster

Student audience








*includes live and encore audiences


Blueprint 2023 also called for a rethinking of the DSO’s governance structure, resulting in three leadership spheres of influence, all existing within the context of one DSO culture with lines of communication, inspiration and innovation intertwined.

  • Board of Directors—fiduciary cohort, charged with issues of accountability, strategic thinking and cultural stewardship. Blueprint ideal size: 18 to 25 members.  FY2014 result: 40

Judge Gerald Rosen was elected to the Board of Directors at the meeting, to serve in that capacity for a term of one year.

The following officers were elected to lead Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Inc. for the term of one year:

Phillip Wm. Fisher, Chairman

Mark Davidoff, Vice Chair, Treasurer

Herman Gray, Vice Chair

Michael Keegan, Vice Chair

Arthur O’Reilly, Officer-at-Large, Secretary

Glenda Price, Vice Chair

  • Board of Trustees—tasked with fostering and nurturing innovation, creativity and organizational learning. In its second year, Trustees Chairman Matt Lester has grown the group to more than 60 and has formed taskforces in the areas of next generation, digital initiatives, programming, branding, re-visioning and diversity. Blueprint ideal size: 50-75 members. FY2014 result: 62

The following individuals were elected to the Board of Trustees at the meeting:

Leslie Green

Robert Gillette

  • Governing Members — voting members who elect members of the board of directors and dedicate themselves to outreach, advocacy and philanthropy. Blueprint ideal size: unlimited. FY2014 result: 400

Governing Members Chairman James C. Farber announced his goal to recruit 100 new volunteers to the program over the next year, a plan he calls the “Road to 500.”

One DSO Culture

In recognition and appreciation of longstanding, distinguished service to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, in 2013 the Board established the office of “Director Emeritus.” Emeritus status is a title of privilege that entitles the bearer to have continued leadership association with the DSO. The honor is based on the quality of service demonstrated as a Board member rather than time served; it is a clear recognition of distinguished service. The following individuals were announced as new Directors Emeriti at the Annual Meeting:

Dr. Melvin Lester

Marjorie Saulson

Arthur Weiss

These individuals join a distinguished group of chairmen and directors emeriti:

Robert A. Allesee

Floy Barthel

Mrs. Mandell L. Berman

John A. Boll, Sr.

Richard A. Brodie

Lois and Avern Cohn

Peter Cummings, Chairman Emeritus

Marianne Endicott

Sidney Forbes

Mrs. Harold Frank

Barbara Frankel

Herman Frankel

Stanley Frankel, Chairman Emeritus

Paul Ganson

Alfred R. Glancy, III, Chairman Emeritus

Mort and Brigitte Harris

Gloria Heppner, Ph.D.

Hon. Damon J. Keith

Richard P. Kughn

Harold Kulish

James B. Nicholson, Chairman Emeritus

Robert E.L. Perkins, DDS

Marilyn Pincus

Robert Steven Miller, Chairman Emeritus

Lloyd E. Reuss

Jack Robinson

Alan E. Schwartz

Jean Shapero

David Usher

Barbara Van Dusen

2013-14: A Year in Review                                                                                 

Operating Results at a glance

2014Actual 2014Budget 2013Actual 2012Actual
Ticket Revenue +$6.45 +$6.71 +$6.26 +$5.30
Other Earned Revenue +$1.30 +$1.37 +$0.97 +$1.33
Contributed Revenue +$17.06* +$17.23 +$18.31 +$12.37
Endowment Draws +$2.77 +$1.94 +$2.32 +$3.44
Total Revenue $27.58 $27.25 $27.86 $22.44
Expenses -$27.52 -$27.25 -$27.84 -$25.25
Net Surplus/(Deficit) from Core Operations $0.06

$0.02 ($2.82)
(dollars in millions)

*Exclusive of funds raised for activities outside the operating budget

The 2013-14 season resulted in an operating surplus of $60,000, representing the DSO’s second consecutive year in the black.

Earned Revenue

While reported national trends reveal waning orchestra subscription rates and a greater reliance on   single ticket sales, the DSO finished its 2013-14 season with its third consecutive year of subscription growth across all product lines. In the aggregate, 86 percent of the classical, pops, and jazz series subscribers renewed for the 2014-15 season.

Inclusive of subscriptions and single tickets, Classical ticket revenue increased by 15 percent ($360,000), driven by special sold-out appearances by Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang. This result was achieved with the addition of 12 classical performances since the 2012-13 season but without raising ticket prices.

After seeing an average capacity in FY13 of 81 percent, the DSO added an additional subscription series to the Pops program last season. With the new Friday evening series, total revenue grew 16 percent and total paid attendance grew 28 percent. Single ticket revenue grew an impressive 59 percent.

With box office revenues exceeding $425,000 and more than 10,000 tickets sold, 2013’s “Home for the Holidays” concerts set the box office record for the annual concert event. The previous record was set in 2012 with over $365,000 in revenue and 8,657 tickets sold, and prior to that only the 2007 shows came close with $354,000 in revenue and 8,133 tickets sold. Led by conductor Thomas Wilkins, Broadway vocalists Gary Mauer and Beth Southard joined the DSO and choirs from Bloomfield Hills High School and Grosse Pointe South High School to perform holiday favorites from “Sleigh Ride” to “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

In Terence Blanchard’s second season as Fred A. & Barbara M. Erb Jazz Creative Chair, the Paradise Jazz Series saw a remarkable 33 percent increase in single ticket revenue and a 30 percent increase in single tickets sold. The jazz subscriber base and subscription revenue each grew by 9 percent.

Last summer’s Salute to America concerts achieved an all-time sales record during the 22nd year of the DSO’s collaboration with Greenfield Village. With $611,524 in ticket sales, the revenue goal was surpassed by 16 percent and topped the standing record from 2010 of $572,340. Nearly 29,000 fans attended the concerts on July 2-5, achieving the third-highest attendance figure in the event’s history.

The DSO returned to Stony Creek Metro Park for the first time in four years and achieved a total attendance of nearly 3,300, grossing nearly $50,000 in revenue.

In its first full season, @ the Max activities had a total attendance of 3,000. This new product line generated gross revenue of $45,000 in un-budgeted funds.

Family subscriptions (Young People’s Family Concerts and Tiny Tots) saw a 14 percent increase in subscription base in Teddy Abrams’ final season as Assistant Conductor with revenue up 27 percent. Overall revenue family programming was up 42 percent.

In an effort to activate The Max 365 day a year, rentals are an important part of the DSO’s earned revenue. Partners during FY14 included the 22nd annual Concert of Colors, the Sphinx Organization Honors Concert and Competition, The Arab American Museum Gala, Neighborhood Legal Services Dinner, Karmanos Race for The Cure, Heroes of Breast Cancer, DSA Graduation, Promusica, Oakland Symphony Orchestra Concert, Deloitte Impact Day Reception, Midtown’s Noel Night & DLECTRICITY, Avanti’s finale concert, WSU’s MLK Celebration, WSU Medical School Orientation, WSU Mondays @ The Max Concert Series and Forgotten Harvest Fundraiser with Detroit’s own Tim Allen.

New partners included Detroit Medical Center and Chamber Music Society of Detroit, and new events included Teach for America Gala, East English Village High School, Cody High School and Henry Ford Academy graduations, WSU School of Medicine Alumni Luncheon, Tuesday Musicale of Detroit Concert, Valeo and Ernst & Young Receptions, MI Entrepreneurial Showcase, New MI Media Dinner, Detroit Jazz Festival and WMU School of Music Concerts.

We also welcomed back MI Minority Business Development Council  Awards Event, Rhonda Walker’s Empowerment Brunch, Lawrence Tech Auto Show Preview Awards Party, Crain’s Automotive News Awards, MI Sports Hall of Fame, Habitat for Humanity Detroit Oscar Viewing Awards Party, Grosse Pointe North High School Concert, Gilda’s Club Big Night Out, Motor City Tap Fest, Chief’s Cooking for Kids, Honda’s Holiday Party, The Lincoln Motor Company, James Tatum Concert, The Tillman annual Holiday Concert, Detroit Regional Chamber, United States Artists Dinner  and Accelerate MI Awards.

Contributed Revenue

In fiscal year 2014, the DSO raised $17.4 million in annual, event and project contributions, exceeding its ambitious goal annual fundraising goal of $17.23 million. The success in individual giving, which saw an increase in every constituency, is owing to the generosity of 10,350 donors who represent the fourth consecutive year of donor base growth.

  • Board member annual fund giving grew by 10 percent for a total of $2.3 million with an average gift of more than $22,000
  • The Governing Members, the DSO’s voting body, grew for the fourth consecutive year reaching 317 members who contributed more than $2 million to the FY14 Annual Fund. In addition, 84 board members contributed at the Governing members level, for a total of 400 individuals
  • Under the leadership of Janet and Norm Ankers, the Gabrilowitsch Society ($10,000+ giving club) in its second year secured more than 50 members giving a total of $1.125 million to the annual fund, a 15 percent increase over FY13. Some 50 board members also give at this level
  • Corporate support came in at $1.8 million
  • Foundation grants totaled $3.4 million, which included payments from multi-year commitments from the William Davidson Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Ford Foundation
  • Every donor at every level played a critical part! With individual gifts ranging from $1 to $1 million, the median gift was $100
  • Under the leadership of President Debbie Savoie, the DSO Volunteer Council generated roughly $200,000 in support through events, activities, and staffing the DSO retail operations, 63 percent increase over FY13

The DSO continues to count among its most substantial, consistent and extraordinarily generous donors Mrs. Marjorie S. Fisher/the Fisher Family/Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. James B. Nicholson/PVS Chemicals Inc. and Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Frankel/Samuel and Jean Frankel Foundation.

Significantly generous and enduring philanthropic support of the DSO mission was given by the The Kresge Foundation, the William Davidson Foundation and Danialle and Peter Karmanos.

Finally, very generous leadership annual support, project grants, and event sponsorships were received by the GM Foundation, the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Family Foundation, the Chrysler Foundation, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Hon. and Mrs. Avern Cohn, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond M. Cracchiolo, Julie and Peter Cummings, DTE Energy Foundation, the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, Mrs. Marjorie S. Fisher, Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Wm. Fisher, Emory M. Ford Jr. Endowment, the Ford Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Ruth and Al Glancy, the GM Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Morton E. Harris, Hudson-Webber Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, Mrs. Bonnie Larson, the McGregor Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, MASCO Corporation Foundation, National Endowments for the Arts, the Polk Family, Bernard and Eleanor Robertson, Mrs. Richard C. Van Dusen, the DSO Volunteer Council, and Clyde and Helen Wu and the Wu Family.

Largely inspired by the DSO’s dedication to modernizing the role of a 21st century orchestra through digital and community outreach, FY14 saw extraordinary generosity from several major new donors.

  • The William Davidson Foundation gave $3.75 million in support of the Neighborhood Concert Series, which has experienced sold out concerts since its launch in 2011 with six metro Detroit performance residencies. The grant will support the series of concerts throughout metro Detroit (now at seven venues) as well as additional activities outside of Orchestra Hall, over the next three years
  • Ruth and Al Glancy, the Ford Motor Company Fund and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation contributed a collective $150,000 to open and furnish the Alfred R. Glancy III Control Room, from which the Live From Orchestra Hall webcast control team mans a group of six robotic cameras
  • The General Motors Foundation contributed $400,000 toward a 10-day tour of Southern Florida during which the DSO played to sold-out audiences in West Palm Beach, Miami, Vero Beach, Sarasota and Naples

The DSO continued its innovative Community Support Month initiative in FY14. At year end, the first concert-based fundraising initiative in DSO history has raised $5 million over its three-year run.

Special events like the one-night-only performance with John Williams and Steven Spielberg, Heroes Gala and Classical Roots grossed a total of $1.4 million, with a 35 percent increase in event revenue.

DSO staff contributed to the Annual Fund with 100 percent participation in response to an anonymous $250,000 challenge grant. Likewise, DSO musicians contributed with an unprecedented, collective leadership gift to the Heroes Gala honoring Dan Gilbert and Matt Cullen.

The DSO is proud to be a community-supported orchestra, and strives to also be community supporting. In celebration of the generous support that makes programming possible at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, around metro Detroit and across the world through global webcasts, in FY 2014 DSO board, staff and musicians donated approximately 5,000 hours of service to the community through a company-wide Day of Service, in-kind event services and engagements at hospitals, schools, libraries and the like.

Endowment Results

The DSO benefits from endowment funds held by the organization as well as by third parties. The DSO’s beginning endowment fund balance on Sept. 1, 2013 was $29.9 million.  After earnings, contributions, and customary draws in support of the DSO mission, the ending balance across held and third party funds on Aug. 31, 2014 totaled $38.8 million. Of this amount, $15.7 million represents the DSO-held endowment.

Changes in Endowment Investments

(millions of dollars)


 Net Growth



Owned & Controlled





Third-Party Controlled for DSO Benefit





Grand Total





The owned and controlled endowment saw net growth of $6.9 million, the result of $5.6 million in new gifts and $1.4 million in growth on existing assets against draws of $0.3 million. These draws included earnings on the portfolio to fund operations.

Third-party controlled endowment assets are invested and distributed by the third parties in accordance with their established policies.

Artistic Excellence

In January 2014, the DSO and its musicians ratified a new three-year contract an unprecedented eight months before the expiration of the previous agreement. The new agreement resulted from a remarkably constructive series of as few as nine bargaining meetings, described by Joint Negotiations Committee members as “respectful,” “honest” and “transparent.” Key terms provide for a contingent of 87, including 2 librarians and 36 weeks of performances plus 4 weeks of vacation time. Total orchestra compensation, inclusive of salary and all benefits, fits within the parameters set forth in Blueprint 2023: over the life of the new contract, the total investment in the musicians of the DSO will increase 5.3 percent over the previous, three-year agreement. The Integrated Media Agreement, which allowed the DSO to become the first orchestra in the world to offer a series of free live webcasts in 2011, remains in force.

The classical season began with a three week celebration of Chinese artists and composers, which included a DSO performance of Songs of the Earth: The Symphonic Landscapes of Xiaogang Ye at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, a one-night-only performance by Chinese piano sensation Lang Lang, the world premiere of Bright Sheng’s Violin Concerto and an appearance by Chinese piano prodigy Conrad Tao performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Throughout the 21 classical programs at Orchestra Hall, the orchestra performed with venerable guest artists and conductors with whom the DSO maintains longstanding relationships, such as Gil Shaham, Conrad Tao, the late Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Hila Plitmann, Anne Akiki Meyers, Hilary Hahn, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Yefim Bronfman, and others. Last season also saw the DSO subscription debut of several faces new to the Orchestra Hall stage: Teddy Abrams, Giancarlo Guerrero, Thierry Fischer, Mei-An Chen, Daniil Trifonov, Augustin Hadelich, Zuill Baily, just to name a few.

In February, the DSO headed south for the winter thanks to a $400,000 grant from the GM Foundation. The Orchestra, led by Slatkin, performed with Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medalist Olga Kern and Grammy Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn during a tour of Southern Florida that took place from February 25 to March 4, 2014. Slatkin and the orchestra previously toured Florida in 2010 with acclaimed cellist Sol Gabetta.

Slatkin’s penchant for new music by contemporary composers was on display last season with a number of World and North American premieres. Bright Sheng’s Zodiac Tales and David Del Tredici’s Dum Dee Tweedle received their world premieres, DSO Principal Harp Patricia Masri-Fletcher performed the World Premiere of Allan Gilliland’s Harp Concerto on a program with seven other DSO soloists and the final World Premiere of the season featured a work by Chinese-American composer Wang Jie, winner of the DSO’s sixth annual Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award for Female Composers.

Jeff Tyzik put together his first Pops season as DSO Principal Pops Conductor, which garnered a 28 percent increase in paid attendance for the series. Highlights of the 2013-14 season included the music of John Williams, a tribute to Led Zeppelin and three sold out presentations of “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony,” which featured Looney Tunes scores performed alongside the cartoons on a screen.

The orchestra’s summer season included the first appearance at Stony Creek Metropark in four years, which drew a crowd of some 3,300. The ensemble also returned to Meadow Brook Music Festival for a rare appearance to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the DSO’s first performance at the venue that was built in 1964 as the orchestra’s summer home.

At the completion of his second season as Assistant Conductor, Teddy Abrams was hired as Music Director of The Louisville Orchestra, where he began his tenure at the start of the 2014-15 season. Abrams’ final season with the DSO saw him on the podium throughout the Young People’s Family Concert series, which saw an 14 percent increase in subscriptions. At the outset of the current season, Michelle Merrill signed a one-year contract as DSO Assistant Conductor, during which time will she will act as cover conductor for all classical series concerts, as well as conduct DSO’s Young People’s Family Concerts, Education Concert Series programs, and occasional Pops series programs.

Paradise Jazz Series

Five-time Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard curated his second season of the Paradise Jazz Series as the DSO’s Fred A. & Barbara M. Erb Jazz Creative Chair, which resulted in a 30 percent increase in single ticket sales for the series and featured Blanchard himself on stage for half of the six presentations. The season began with a performance by former Erb Jazz Chair Branford Marsalis and his quartet and also included a holiday tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington by Grammy Award-winning vocalist Patti Austin, a collaboration between Terence Blanchard and DSO musicians to present the music of Miles Davis and Gil Evans, an appearance by Blanchard’s quintet featuring Ravi Coltrane and Lionel Loueke and McToy Tyner performing music from his Grammy-winning album “Illuminations” with Blanchard. Eddie Palmieri, who was scheduled to close the program, had to reschedule his performance for March 2015, but Pancho Sanchez was able to fill in at a moment’s notice.

Each Paradise Jazz Series concert was preceded by a Music Box Performance of Civic Jazz Live, which added to the overall experience for DSO jazz audiences and provides incredible performance opportunities for our Civic Jazz students.

Auditions and new hires

Nine musicians joined the distinguished ranks of the DSO in the last year: Kevin Brown, Principal Bass; Jeremy Epp, Principal Timpani; Will Haapaniemi, violin; Hae Jeong Han, violin; Andres Picardo-Rosenthal, Assistant Principal Percussion; Alexandros Sakarellos, violin; Ralph Skiano, Principal Clarinet; Scott Strong, Third Horn; and Mingzhao Zhou, violin. FY13 saw an extensive and well attended audition schedule, with 10 auditions held, a rare volume among orchestral peers. Auditions attracted a total of 765 applicants from both national and international backgrounds. Joshua Jones, percussion, also joined the DSO as African American Orchestra Fellow.


During the 2013-14 season, the DSO released two discs on the Naxos label: a pairing of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 and Symphonic Dances(the final installment in a three-disc series) and Cindy McTee’s Symphony No. 1: Ballet for Orchestra. The orchestra recorded Copland’s Three Latin American Sketches and Hear Ye! Hear Ye! last season for the second in a three-disc series on the Naxos label of Copland’s complete ballets. David Buck, Principal Flute and Dennis Nulty, Principal Tuba recorded John Williams’ Flute and Tuba concerti (respectively) for a digital Naxos compilation of John Williams’ complete concerti. To accompany the Florida Tour, the DSO released a commemorative disc featuring Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4.

The Most Accessible Orchestra on the Planet

A chief DSO goal is to “mean more to more people.” As a community-supported orchestra, the DSO acknowledges its dependence not only on those community members who regularly give generously to the orchestra, but also on each individual who attends a concert. Becoming the most accessible orchestra on the planet is paramount to achieving a deeper meaning among a broader audience base. In the 2014 fiscal year, the DSO was successful in this regard on several fronts.

  • Day of Service—On the afternoon of November 15, 2013 the Max M. Fisher Music Center was  closed for the First Annual Detroit Symphony Orchestra Day of Service. Some 80 DSO musicians, board and staff spent the afternoon serving three Detroit organizations as a show of gratitude for the support the Orchestra receives daily from its community. The activity was repeated this last fall with a significant increase in participation.
  • 37/11—37/11 is the DSO’s reinvigorated social and professional network for our next generation of patrons. For just $37 per year, members receive benefits like $11 tickets to Classical, Pops and Jazz Series concerts and exclusive opportunities to interact with DSO musicians, guest artists, conductors and more!  This program was re-launched in the 2012-13 season and currently maintains a membership of 143, nearly doubling in the last year.
  • @ the Max—In order to build on Mix @ The Max (a monthly concert series geared toward young professionals launched in 2012), in FY14 the DSO focused on developing new and unexpected ways to activate The Music Box within the Max M. Fisher Music Center in partnership with our Next Gen committee made up of young local professionals and entrepreneurs. Om @ The Max pairs a traditional yoga instruction with live chamber music for 200-student classes in The Music Box. Assemble @ The Max brings speakers from around the world to facilitate discussions on pertinent topics like urban planning and public transportation. Including Mix concert audiences, the total attendance across all Next Gen events was 3,637.
  • Community Week—Following a review of 15 self-nominated finalists, the DSO selected four community venues to review free concerts in September 2013, powered by the DTE Energy Foundation. Taking into consideration 14,000 votes from the pool of nominees, the DSO performed for sold-out crowds at the Lakeview High School, Greater Grace Temple, Clawson High School and the Heinz C. Prechter Educational and Performing Arts Center.
  • Soundcard—inspired by Leonard Slatkin, in 2011-12 the DSO introduced Soundcard—the $25, all-access student pass for Classical, Pops and Jazz concerts at Orchestra Hall. During the 2013-14 season, 952 Soundcards were issued to students who used them to attend concerts 2,376 times throughout the season, a 27 percent increase in usage over the previous year.
  • Detroit Rush Initiative—anyone with a Detroit address may purchase a ticket to any classical or jazz concert two weeks out for just $20. In the 2013-14 season, 1,092 Detroit residents took advantage of this program.
  • Patronminded pricing—reduced ticket prices for classical concerts were retained last season to maintain accessibility. Prices reflect that of 1999 levels, allowing patrons to attend an Orchestra Hall concert for as little as $15 with half the seats at $25 or less.

Digital Initiatives

Ever since the first Live From Orchestra Hall webcast in 2011, the DSO has continued to increase its investment in digital technology and remain in the vanguard of 21st century orchestra innovation. During the third full season of webcasts, we implemented a state-of-the-art, six-angle robotic camera system in Orchestra Hall. A new web interface was also developed, simplifying online donations and purchases. Special attention to social media engagement has resulted in a significantly increased fan base across each medium.

Live from Orchestra Hall webcasts – For the 2013-14 Live from Orchestra Hall season (presented by the Ford Motor Company and made possible with the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation), the DSO presented 25 webcasts reaching 500,000 viewers worldwide, assisted last season by a partnership with PBS Digital Studios to deliver our webcasts to more music lovers nationwide via and the PBS app. We also began a program with Oakwood Healthcare, which delivers DSO concerts on-demand in patient rooms.

In March, the DSO debuted a new state-of-the-art robotic camera production system during a performance by Jean-Yves Thibaudet performing the DSO premiere of James MacMillan’s Piano Concerto No. 3, making the DSO the first American orchestra to adopt technology of this kind.

While many American orchestras have made forays into web streaming, The New York Times said “…the cutting edge for the phenomenon in this country lies here, where the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has the most ambitious free web-streaming program of any major American orchestra…”

The cameras, roughly the size of a small coffee maker, are controlled remotely via a joystick in the Alfred R. Glancy III Control Room located in the basement of the Max M. Fisher Music Center. As a score reader calls out instrument sections or individual musicians to focus on, a director and team of engineers execute a list of hundreds of pre-programmed shots.

The cameras were purchased with generous support from Alfred R. Glancy III, the Ford Motor Company Fund, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Live From Orchestra Hall is presented in partnership with Detroit Public Television, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

In an era when travel and commercial recording opportunities are less prevalent, Live from Orchestra Hall has helped the DSO maintain an international presence and share Maestro Slatkin’s artistic vision, the musicians’ virtuosity, a stellar collection of guest artists, and important artistic initiatives like:

  • a live webcast and weeklong encore of piano superstar Lang Lang’s performance with the DSO that reached over 25,000 (and was his first live webcast with a US orchestra)
  • the world premiere of David Del Tredici’s only opera, Dum Dee Tweedle

New Website— In August a new was launched featuring simplified navigation, responsiveness down to a tablet level and customized experiences for various DSO constituent groups. Governing Members now have unique privileges when logged in to the site including waived ticket fees and a special interface to reflect an executive atmosphere, as well as a hub for exclusive event invitations, updates and digital publications.

In addition, Soundcard holders and young professionals with 37eleven memberships can redeem tickets online at free or discounted membership prices. After login, members are welcomed by a personalized greeting, a custom site look and feel and an improved, searchable events calendar that highlights performances eligible for applicable member prices.

The new website was created by local metro Detroit internet services firm Media Genesis, which works with more than 300 companies and nonprofit organizations, including Chrysler, the Girl Scouts, SEE Eyewear, The Whitney and Focus: HOPE. Improving its web presence over a short timeline, the DSO’s website was last updated in 2010, preceding the 2011 launch of its HD webcasts, DSO to Go mobile app and first digital album.

Social Media—Participation on Facebook increased by more than double to 36,200 followers. Thanks to the international reach of the DSO’s recordings and Live from Orchestra Hall webcasts, 35 percent of the Facebook audience comes from abroad, including fans in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Korea, Spain, and Venezuela. Nearly 20,000 people follow the DSO on Twitter, a 25 percent increase over last year. Launched in July of 2012, the DSO’s Instagram account currently has 2,167 follows, a competitive number when compared to peer orchestras across the nation. The DSO’s Tumblr account was launched during the Florida Tour last season, and has gained more than 700 followers in under a year, the majority of whom first engaged during the tour thanks in large part to a Tumblr feature. The DSO’s YouTube channel has served as an important tool for Live From Orchestra Hall, where encore webcasts receive thousands of views. Our YouTube channel garnered half a million views this past year, with nearly 60 percent of traffic from International audiences. Subscription to our channel has doubled, with growing reach in Central and South America in addition to a strong presence in Canada, Japan, and across Europe.

Wu Family Academy

With the support of a seven-figure, multi-million dollar gift from Clyde and Helen Wu, the DSO will expand its music education initiatives to benefit the Southeast Michigan region, identifying and responding to the needed resources of all eight of our Neighborhood Residency Initiative communities including Detroit.

By offering the services of our highly trained mentors and instructors to teaching artists in public schools in each of these neighborhoods, the DSO will cultivate relationships with students and their families to inspire and captivate students of all ages.

The DSO will advocate for local arts education programs and support the success of music educators while simultaneously establishing meaningful educational engagement opportunities for DSO musicians.

In honor of the legacy of Dr. and Mrs. Clyde and Helen Wu, the academy takes the DSO’s already thriving educational offerings and further connects individuals and communities to the resources of the DSO. Through live and digital partnerships the organization will provide hands-on music education and training in classrooms, communities, and virtual settings, cultivating relationships that will change lives today and, thereby, the trajectory of our community tomorrow. We envision Music Learning Centers where hundreds of children in each neighborhood learn to play an instrument or are captivated by the joy of singing. Our work in the eight DSO neighborhoods will support the success of music teachers, reinforce local arts education programs, and strive to bring needed resources to community partners. In the early months of FY15 this new commitment was signaled by the pilot launch of Live from Orchestra Hall: Classroom Edition, which delivered the DSO’s school time performance of An American Adventure direct to over 30,000 Detroit students, and a total of over 50,000 students nationwide, in their schools.  Live from Orchestra Hall: Classroom Edition is made possible by generous support from the Mandell and Madeleine Berman Foundation.

According to The College Entrance Examination Board, students participating in the arts for at least four years score 59 points higher on the verbal section and 45 points higher on the math section of the SAT. Furthermore, according to Americans for the Arts, students who regularly participate in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and to win an award for writing an essay or poem and three times more likely to be awarded for school attendance.

This data provides compelling proof that quality arts education today is a necessity for changing the cultural and economic landscape of Detroit tomorrow. The goal of The Wu Family Academy of Learning and Engagement is to provide programming that expands the understanding and appreciation of the arts for all, empowering them to have confidence in their creative decisions and to spark a passion that will last a lifetime. The goal of the Wu Family Academy is to expand the understanding and appreciation of the arts for the youth of Detroit, empowering them to have confidence in their creative decisions and sparking a passion that will last a lifetime. The results are a generation of leaders capable of shaping a brighter future for us all.

The launching of the Wu Family Academy springboards from the success of all education programs produced at Orchestra Hall over the past 45 years.

The DSO’s Civic Youth Ensemble program, which now operates under the umbrella of the Wu Family Academy, is one of the preeminent and most comprehensive youth training programs in America. The CYE training programs encapsulate classical, jazz, wind and choral studies, as well as chamber music—training some 1,000 young people per week at the Max M. Fisher Music Center. The CYE program offers more than 20 ensembles and opportunities to train with CYE’s highly specialized faculty and DSO musicians.

High-Profile Public Events

Heroes Gala

The Fourth Annual Heroes Gala in June honoring Dan Gilbert and Matt Cullen was among the institution’s most successful fundraisers of all time, grossing some $1.2 million. The gala followed a one-night-only concert featuring movie music by John Williams, conducted by the composer himself and narrated by film legend Steven Spielberg. Tickets for the concert sold out within 15 minutes of going on sale, with many fans camping outside the box office along Woodward Avenue in order to get the best seats.

Classical Roots

The Classical Roots Concert and Celebration took place on Saturday, March 8 with world-renowned soprano Kathleen Battle headlining the 36th annual event.  Founded to recognize the contributions of African-Americans to classical music, the Celebration honored long-time Detroit arts patron and DSO Emeritus Director Dr. Robert E.L. Perkins and University of Michigan Professor Emeritus of Voice, Dr. Willis C. Patterson.  Led by Ellen Hill Zeringue of the Detroit Tigers and Janice Cosby Bridges of St. John Providence Health System, the event raised over $175,000.  We saw a rebuilding of gala and concert audiences to levels not seen since 2008.  Over 310 people attended the gala dinner with nearly 2,000 patrons at the concert, rendering both spaces near capacity.

Neighborhood Residency Initiative (NRI)

This fall the DSO received a $3.75 million grant from the William Davidson Foundation in support of its popular Neighborhood Concert Series, renaming the series the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series. The grant will support the series of concerts throughout metro Detroit, as well as additional performance and education activities outside of Orchestra Hall, over the next three years.

The series is named in honor of philanthropist William Davidson, former president and CEO of Guardian Industries Corp. Davidson shared a long-lasting relationship with the DSO and his generous support helped to strengthen the organization in many ways, including support of the DSO’s domestic and international tours. Last season grew the series from six neighborhoods to seven, taking a total of 29 performances to Beverly Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Canton, Dearborn, Grosse Pointe, Southfield and West Bloomfield Township. The newest venue, the Village Theater at Cherry Hill in Canton, was added in FY14 and sold out on subscription in its first season. In the series’ third season, 13,063 tickets were purchased with an average house fill rate of 74 percent. Total ticket revenue earned for the entire neighborhood series was $320,645, an increase of 16 percent compared to the previous season. The total number of attending households including subscribers and single ticket purchasers was 2,798, a 15 percent increase from FY13. The season closed with 1,965 subscriptions sold to 1,003 households, 324 of which were new to the series.

792 of the households that attended a neighborhood performance during FY14 had no previous history with the DSO. Of these new households, 14 percent went on to attend one or more concerts at Orchestra Hall. In our analysis, not one patron has cancelled an existing Orchestra Hall subscription in favor of the neighborhood series. In fact, 13 percent of Neighborhood Concert Series subscribers added the series to an existing Orchestra Hall subscription, becoming multiple series subscribers to the DSO.

The Neighborhood Concert Series is fully and generously sponsored by the William Davidson Foundation, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts. The series is presented by WRCJ 90.9 FM.

Life Enrichment and Education Programs

Bringing people to the DSO also means finding them where they are. Our Neighborhood Residency Initiative engages our DSO musicians with metro Detroit schools, hospitals, care centers, senior living communities, libraries, community centers, places of worship and myriad other unexpected places. As various small ensembles and individual artists your DSO musicians delivered more than 400 community engagement services throughout our city last season: musical therapy, hospital lobby concerts, master classes and sectional for aspiring musicians, chamber music recitals, special performances for seniors, featured appearances at major civic events and more. And this commitment runs deep with participation from nearly all DSO musicians. In FY14, these initiatives reached over 12,000 citizens. In the wellness sector alone DSO musicians made 120 appearances for more than 3,500 citizens.

This deeply impactful work is made possible through several generous philanthropists and committed partners like the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, DTE Energy Foundation, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation and the League of American Orchestras, American House Senior Living Communities, Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, Oakwood Healthcare, All Seasons West Bloomfield and Detroit Public Schools.



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