Whether through webcasts viewed worldwide or countless performances in the heart of Motor City, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has always gone the extra mile to make itself accessible to fans. Now, thanks to the overwhelming community response of Ann Arbor residents, the DSO plans to spend a few of those miles on a trip to Pioneer High School for a free community concert.

DTE Energy Foundation presents DSO in Your Community

Sunday at 8 p.m.
Pioneer High School

The performance will be the last of five stops on DTE Energy Foundation’s “DSO in Your Community” tour, which encourages music lovers across Michigan to address letters to the tour’s selection committee endorsing possible performance spaces for the orchestra. The selected venues are currently hosting a night of free entertainment as part of the DSO’s mission to stay involved with local communities.

“Our decisions were made based on a number of criteria,” said selection committee member Maud Lyon, executive director of the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan. “One of them, obviously first and foremost, is whether or not theirs is a space that will work. But we also looked at how [the nominees] compare to where the symphony is already going with its other community concerts, so that through this program they could get to places that they hadn’t been to and hadn’t reached yet.”

An enormous response from across the region gave the committee over 100 venue nominees to choose from, leaving the board with the difficult decision of selecting only five. Ultimately, high schools in Anchor Bay, Clarkston, Mt. Clemens, Wayne and Ann Arbor were given the honor of hosting the DSO on its tour.

Though the concert series focuses on school and community involvement, it’s by no means a one-way learning experience. The concerts also offer the DSO a valuable opportunity to discover more about the patrons that support it.

“I think it’s good for the symphony to be out and on the road,” Lyon said. “It expands their viewpoint, and really puts them in the mode of community service, which is a great thing for an arts and culture organization to do.”

Lyon’s current position within the CASM — as well as her past career as senior vice president of community relations for the DSO — have provided her with invaluable insight into how community exposure helps the orchestra itself to thrive.

“My job is to help organizations like the symphony to thrive and be sustainable community assets,” Lyon said. “So it’s about connecting them to other aspects of the community and getting them to reach out in ways that are maybe untraditional for them.

“If you only do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten, and so the whole idea [of the tour] is to broaden their audience.”

The selection committee itself was balanced by civic, educational and corporate voices, allowing the venue discussion to include insight from inside and outside the orchestra. By encompassing the opinions of orchestra members as well as regional arts and culture organizations such as CASM, the committee was able to fully gauge which communities would be best suited for — and would benefit most from — the presence of the DSO.

“The committee wanted to include people like me that know the community well,” said Lyon. “I’m really interested in how arts and culture really reaches out and includes the community, and being able to have these concerts go on the road, as it were, is really a terrific thing. So my kind of voice in the selection committee was really talking about the impact of different community locations from my perspective.”

The committee was tasked with finding venues with a perfect balance of physical and cultural propriety — and it was this mixture of community enthusiasm and a rich history of artistic support that made Ann Arbor a prime candidate.

“We certainly were interested in having a place that would be in Ann Arbor,” Lyon said. “That was one of the communities where the symphony hasn’t been as much, and there are a lot of people from Ann Arbor that love the symphony.”

Though it was difficult to choose five venues from the over 100 nominees, it was the vast outpouring of community support that ultimately made the selection process worthwhile for committee and the DSO.

“What was wonderful was seeing how many different places wanted to have the symphony there,” Lyon said. “In the end, [the tour] really gives people an opportunity to reach out and make the symphony theirs, which I think is especially important.”

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