Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings Expanding

While other art organizations have crumbled due to the economy, the DCW&S are doing something right



A TEPID ECONOMY TYPICALLY sends arts organizations into financial hot water. Since the recession, The Baltimore Opera Company and the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra went belly up. The New York City Opera is clinging to life, while the august Philadelphia Orchestra is in bankruptcy protection.

However, the Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings (DCW&S) is not only in fine fettle, it’s expanding. Marking its 30th anniversary, the group is introducing a new concert series, adding venues, and welcoming a composer-in-residence and an ensemble-in-residence.

What’s DCW&S doing right?

“We’ve always had wonderful musicians [drawn primarily from the ranks of the DSO and Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra], but from the beginning we had strong volunteer leadership, too,” says co-founder and executive director Maury Okun. “When you combine those two, magic can sometimes happen.

“That kind of collaboration has brought attention from the philanthropic community, and we’ve been well supported by foundations and businesses.”

This month, the group celebrates its third decade with a concert called “30 Something,” a musical look backward — and forward. Featured will be music performed during DCW&S’s first season, 1982-83, and will also include Gradus, a solo cello piece by 27-year-old composer-in-residence Paul Dooley.

Dooley is part of a new program launched by DCW&S that will highlight young musicians from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and U-M’s School of Music. “Paul is a U-of-M guy, and our young ensemble-in-residence, Amusia, is from Oberlin,” Okun says. “Next year, we’ll reverse it, with a composer coming from Oberlin and an ensemble from U-of-M.”

Okun says his organization will premiere a new series this spring called Structurally Sound. “The idea is to pair an architecturally significant building with music that will meld with it,” he says. “It will be part music and part talk about how the music and the space interface.” The first concert will be held at the Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit. Another venue will be the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores.

Innovative programming like that could keep the organization on pitch for the next 30 years.

“30 Something” begins at 4 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center, 311 E. Grand River, Detroit. $10-$25; 248-559-2095,

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