Detroit Symphony Orchestra Announces New Foundation Support

Mike Lawson • News • October 30, 2017

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The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) has announced that it has received new and increased support totaling $18.5 million from four foundations: the William Davidson Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, and the Dresner Foundation.

The William Davidson Foundation is giving $15 million to the orchestra, which will include continued sponsorship of the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series. The pledge also features a $5 million challenge grant to the DSO’s permanent endowment to inspire additional, widespread support.

In recognition of this significant gift, the DSO announced that the atrium at the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center will from now on be named the William Davidson Atrium.

“The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has recently achieved tremendous successes, with five consecutive balanced budgets, increased individual giving, and our highest ticket sales in years,” said Mark Davidoff, chairman of the DSO Board of Directors and Michigan Managing Partner of Deloitte. “While there is more to be done as we move into the second half of our ten-year plan, we want to take the time to thank all those who have believed in and supported our vision to increase and broaden the DSO’s impact in our resurgent city and region.”

“The William Davidson Foundation’s gift builds on past annual support critical to the community-centric program we began together six years ago and bears their name, invests significant resources in the short- and long-term strategies laid out in our ten-year plan, and provides a timely call to action around the importance of building endowment to ensure service to future generations,” said DSO president and CEO Anne Parsons. “We are thrilled with all of the new gifts announced today and hope this message of ‘it takes a village’ will resonate for others to join in support of the long-term viability of the DSO.”

“Our family’s support of the DSO began three generations ago,” says Ralph J. Gerson, a member of the William Davidson family, the William Davidson Foundation Executive Committee, and the DSO Board of Directors. “We want this world-class orchestra—this community jewel—to enrich audiences in our region and across the globe for generations to come. The DSO’s exemplary leadership, musical artistry, and unmatched accessibility continue to inspire us. We hope the Foundation’s $5 million challenge grant will inspire others to contribute to the endowment campaign and thereby become lifelong supporters.”

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation meets the challenge with a new $2 million gift to the DSO’s endowment (for a total of $2.75 million when combined with its recently announced annual fund gift) to support the work of the DSO’s Social Progress Initiative. This includes bolstering enrollment for underserved youth in the DSO’s Civic Youth Ensembles program, growing the talent of these students through regular private lessons, and expanding the orchestra’s African-American Fellowship program to have two fellows in the orchestra simultaneously.

The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Foundation is giving $1 million to the DSO’s endowment to meet the challenge, adding to their ongoing operating support for several artistic initiatives including the DSO’s Civic Jazz Ensemble.

The Dresner Foundation is giving $500,000 in new support to this challenge, in addition to $600,000 it pledged to the orchestra in March to provide comprehensive music education for underserved youth through increased classroom visits and the establishment of a new entry-level program in the DSO’s Civic Youth Ensembles. The Dresner Foundation Allegro Ensemble launched in September at Duke Ellington Elementary on Detroit’s east side with 32 students. 

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