I’ve been a bassist for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra since 1989. With this position and being African-American, I had hoped to be a catalyst for helping our orchestra to connect deeply with the wider Detroit community. In 1995 I began reaching out independently, arranging famous symphonic works for a mixed octet. CutTime Players was increasingly popular with local presenters and schools because of its virtuosity, variety, flexibility and intimacy.
Eventually I began composing emotional works in tonal, romantic styles for a string sextet I call CutTime Simfonica. Many of these works organically fold in some urban pop for a style I call Classical Soul. During this development I discovered how new audiences were more inspired when we introduced the works in any kind of personal manner. They also enjoyed watching music performed very closely. I was able to experiment much more when I launched a chapter of the Classical Revolution movement in Detroit (CRD) in 2010.
Classical Revolution began in San Francisco in 2006 with conservatory students playing for fun in a nearby coffeehouse, the Revolution Café. They soon extended this novel vibe into the prevailing young adult culture in bars, clubs and restaurants around the city. This idea of taking classical OFF the pedestal of the concert halls to face popular culture inspired another 35 chapters worldwide so far. Statewide smoking bans have helped make this possible too.
Now I've resigned from DSO to complete my vision for change in the classical music industry. The tough economic challenges we face also present tremendous opportunities for artistic reinvention and partnerships for true community relevance. My art has shifted from the art itself to the audience I’d like to see enjoying orchestra concerts. I learned that we’re not in the music business, but in the inspiration business THROUGH music! Setting a context that speaks to all is as artistic as any performance.
With Classical Revolution Detroit, I've gone some steps further, proving how we can touch the lives of a broader community through chamber music when offered with personal insights, interactions and a broad variety. I call this presentation style New Classical. My 100 CutTime arrangements and funky compositions fit neatly within this, introducing lively music in smokeless bars and clubs where regular folk love to discover music with friends, food, drink and conversation. An amplification system with good acoustic mics means people can talk but still hear.
Classical Revolution is no panacea. We serve small audiences (so far) in a noisy setting. Yet it brings balance to an industry deserving new listeners and broad public support. Everyone deserves beautiful music. And by going underground to serve the masses, by wetting the appetite of a much broader community, by clueing in curious music lovers, by countering exclusivity with inclusivity, by welcoming people who come as they are, this small revolution will cause some to start buying tickets to concerts, enroll their kids in music and speak positively about classical.
The scale of fees for professional classical musicians is much higher than rock and jazz musicians. Although the series is growing thanks to a Detroit News video, while we build new audiences, clubs can't possibly afford classical musicians. Funding this project will expand Classical Revolution Detroit to 4 monthly events with 12 paid musicians for CutTime ensembles, guest ensembles and solo performers while keeping the costs neutral or free to deserving clubs and their patrons. Your donations will also pay for some advertising, management time, hosting and amp system rental.
Please help me bring about a new future where people discover art music in the same place they discover popular music. It's time we cut loose with the classical!
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