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The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) will honor celebrated pianist André Watts and longtime orchestra supporter and cultural leader Chacona W. Baugh at the annual Arthur L. Johnson-Honorable Damon Jerome Keith Classical Roots Celebration. 

For 42 years, the DSO’s Classical Roots concerts have presented African-American composers and musicians, and since 2001, the Celebration has honored composers, musicians, educators, and leaders for lifetime achievement as well as raised funds to support the DSO’s African-American music and musician development programs.

The two Classical Roots concerts in Orchestra Hall (on Friday, March 6 at 10:45 a.m. and Saturday, March 7 at 8 p.m.) will be conducted by Thomas Wilkins and feature the DSO, the Brazeal Dennard Chorale, and Mr. Watts.

The program includes the world premiere of composer Nkeiru Okoye’s Black Bottom, a new work inspired by the historic African-American Detroit neighborhood of the same name. Sumayya Ali (soprano), Charlotte Small-Chestnut (mezzo-soprano), Bernard Holcomb (tenor), and Markel Reed (baritone) are featured soloists in this new work. Black Bottom is commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with a grant from The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

Watts will be the featured soloist in Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. The Saturday evening concert will be webcast for free at and via Facebook Live. 

The black-tie Classical Roots Celebration – held since 2001 in conjunction with the concerts – will take place on Saturday, March 7. The Celebration raises funds to support the Classical Roots mission and is organized by a dedicated steering committee, co-chaired this year by H. Keith Mobley and Jasmin DeForrest.

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