Letter from Linette Popoff-Parks

An open letter to the Board of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra:

Many requests, via letters and emails, have been sent to you since the strike began, and I believe very strongly that these voices of Detroit Symphony Orchestra fans and donors, as well as musicians from around the world, are proving to you that this large community of musicians and music lovers are fiercely committed to maintaining Detroit’s “world-class orchestra”.  We look to you for strength and leadership, for the wisdom that must come from you, as you are charged with the support of this major presence of the arts in Detroit and all other communities in the world where our Orchestra has shared its high calibre musicianship.

There can be success only in relationships that are mutually respectful – and the strife, distrust, and hostility exhibited by the management of the DSO can produce nothing fruitful.  Arts organizations, albeit businesses, must exist in a trusting and open partnership of the musicians and those responsible for the thriving operations of that organization.  Music, like the other humanities, is an expression of our very living souls, and must be created in an atmosphere that fosters its joyful expression with unburdened voices.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet the new consuls and consuls-general that are now serving in the Detroit area.  One of the first activities they seek in a new country is to experience of the cultural life of their newly-assigned homes.  In conversation, I discovered they had visited many of our cultural “gems” of art, architecture, and history in their first few months in Detroit, but could not understand why the management of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was in a position to threaten the excellence of its orchestra.  Many had attended concerts of the DSO in other countries and were looking forward to attending concerts at Orchestra Hall on a regular basis.

I don’t believe that any one of you would disagree that music is an essential part of our lives.  Ralph Waldo Emerson:  “Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto.”  The successes of Gustavo Dudamel now in Los Angeles, is a prime example of what strong, effective music programs can produce. Your leadership could stimulate in Detroit, via the excellence of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians, such an effect.  We look to you to lead the negotiations to end this strike with prudence and respect for those musicians who have spent their lives devoted to excellence in their technical and musical expression.  They have created hundreds of experiences for us (audience, fellow musicians, etc.) that “startle our wonder.”

I am a university professor in music, who teaches majors and non-majors (your future audiences), a performing musician, and a loyal patron of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and I ask you to work actively to end this strike.   The onus is on you – the responsibility to bring gifted third-party negotiators into the process, and effect the changes necessary for a successful and happy end to the strike. The favor of all of us who support our excellent Orchestra will then be yours.


Linette Popoff-Parks
Professor and Chair, Music Department
Madonna University
Livonia, Michigan



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