23 April 2021, 12:25 | Updated: 23 April 2021, 17:01

Patron attacks the Detroit Symphony over “offensive” season of Black composers, and the classical music world responded.
Patron attacks the Detroit Symphony over “offensive” season of Black composers, and the classical music world responded.

Picture:
Getty / Twitter


Detroit Symphony vice president Erik Rönmark called out a letter that expressed “dismay” and “offence” at the orchestra’s broadening composer diversity. And classical music colleagues were quick to answer.

A Detroit Symphony Orchestra patron (DSO) has penned a letter complaining about the orchestra’s “offensive” season featuring Black artists, and the classical music world has been quick to respond.

A DSO leader soon called out the patron’s views on the orchestra’s increasingly ethnically diverse programming. DSO’s vice president and general manager, Erik Rönmark, took to social media on Wednesday (21 April) to share the letter from the anonymous self-professed patron, with the caption “You win some, you lose some.”

The patron, who signed themselves as a “disappointed past” one, described writing “with dismay”, and said to the orchestra, “I find it offensive and discriminatory that you are planning your upcoming season focussing on a particular ethnic group.”

They go on to slam the programming as “jumping on the current band wagon of playing the diversity card”, claiming the orchestra is “labelling” people instead of treating people as “humans”.

Read more: First Black female dancer at Berlin’s Staatsballett had to ‘white up’ for Swan Lake >

Top classical musicians were quick to respond to Rönmark’s post, defending the orchestra and pointing out how the ‘patron’ had missed the point.

Top clarinettist Anthony McGill tweeted: “The price of progress. Thank you DSO for existing in the year 2021.” And the actor and conductor, Damon Gupton replied, “Good Riddance. The lack of understanding is a maddening thing.”

Composer Nico Muhly also highlighted the misguided patron feedback. And the CEO of a tech company also stepped in offering to sponsor four new Black and ethnically diverse patrons for the orchestra.

DSO’s 2021/22 season features a mix of core classical repertoire – from Ludwig van Beethoven, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Antonín Dvořák – and masterpieces by American masters like George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Jeff Scott, among other programming streams.

In the newly announced season, the legendary Michigan orchestra will be championing over 20 works by Black and women composers, including music by composers Florence Price and Hannah Lash, and a ‘Classical Roots celebration’ with jazz trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis.