For over 30 years, The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) has paid homage to the contributions of African Americans in the Metro Detroit community and in classical music through the Classical Roots program. This week-long celebration is equal parts education for young people and emerging artists, world class entertainment and fundraising for community programming. This year the DSO will honor two trailblazers in the fields of medicine and music, Dr. Silas Norman and and his sister, Grammy-winning soprano Jessye Norman with performances by Grammy Award winning saxophonist and Tony Award nominee composer Branford Marsalis and Soprano Laquita Mitchell.
A University of Michigan alumna, soprano Norman is the founder of the Jessye Norman School for the Arts in her hometown of Augusta, Georgia, which is a tuition-free arts education program for talented middle-school students otherwise unable to experience private arts tutoring. Norman is an honorary ambassador to the United Nations, a Kennedy Center Honoree, a National Medal of the Arts awardee, a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres and a member of France’s Legion D’Honneur with five Grammys.
An alumnus of Wayne State University and longtime faculty member of the School of Medicine, the late Dr. Silas Norman, Jr. was a beloved member of the Detroit community until his death in 2015. His commitment to social and humanistic medicine coupled with a deep compassion for the underserved ensured that thousands received much-needed health care. An active member of Detroit’s Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Dr. Norman sponsored a scholarship fund through the church to help University of Michigan graduate students further their music education abroad. He was also a longtime member of the Brazeal Dennard Chorale.
Classical Roots Celebration was founded to celebrate and raise awareness about the contributions of African-Americans to classical music. It also supports increased opportunities through special programs, such as the DSO’s African-American Orchestral Fellowship Program, a mentoring opportunity for young professional musicians. The current fellow Joshua Jones, percussionist, will appear onstage with the orchestra during the Classical Roots concert. Past fellows include DSO Principal Trombone Kenneth Thompkins and Caen Thomason-Redus, DSO Director of Community Engagement. This year the DSO a will visit three Detroit schools in the weeks leading up to the celebration to perform percussion demonstrations including; Chandler Park Academy, Spain Elementary/Middle School and International Prep Academy.
Join the Classical Roots Celebration on Saturday, March 5 for the concert and gala starting at 5 p.m. at the Max M. Fisher Music Theater, 3711 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201. This black tie fundraiser will feature a strolling dinner, the Classical Roots Concert and afterglow. Tickets start at just $75 dollars. Tickets to the Classical Roots Concert only begin at just $15 dollars. For more information on the event and the DSO please visit www.dso.org or call at (313) 576-5111.