Home » Performance » Bands » Concert Band Collaborates with Crescendo Detroit and Detroit Harmony in a Joint Concert

Students perform in a band on stage, some wearing all-black and others wearing blue hoodies

Concert Band Collaborates with Crescendo Detroit and Detroit Harmony in a Joint Concert

May 28, 2024 | Alumni, Bands, DEI, Faculty, Outreach

By Judy Galens

On a Sunday afternoon last March, students in the U-M Concert Band, led by Courtney Snyder, gathered at Hill Auditorium to get ready for that day’s concert, preparing in much the same way they had done several times throughout the season. But this concert stood out from the others in an important aspect: on that day, March 17, the Concert Band performed alongside high school students from Crescendo Detroit and Detroit Harmony, marking the first time these groups of students would share the stage and perform together.

Crescendo Detroit is a nonprofit organization that offers after-school and summer programs for school-age children in the city, teaching instrumental music, vocal music, music production, and dance. It was cofounded in 2013 by Damien Crutcher (MM ’96, wind conducting), the nonprofit organization’s CEO and a vocal advocate for accessible and inclusive arts education. SMTD and Crescendo Detroit have collaborated for many years in many ways, including the Crescendo Detroit/SMTD Pathways Program, which brings Crescendo Detroit participants to Ann Arbor on Saturdays to be taught by SMTD students. A native Detroiter, Crutcher also serves as the managing director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Detroit Harmony initiative, which seeks to increase opportunities for music education in the city, in part by providing instruments to every K-12 student who wants to learn to play.

Band seated in rehearsal faces the camera while Crutcher faces them standing on the conductor's podium
Rows of instrumental players with stands face conductor

Damien Crutcher (left) and Courtney Snyder (right) conduct at a rehearsal with the U-M Concert Band and students from Crescendo Detroit and Detroit Harmony. Photo credit: Chris Boyes

Snyder, who is an associate professor of music and associate director of bands in addition to being the conductor of the Concert Band, began working with Crutcher months before the March concert. “We had been talking about ways to be more intentional about creating opportunities for students to eventually come to the University of Michigan when they’re ready to go to college,” she recalled. “We need to start that process much younger because of the sheer amount of time it takes to prepare yourself as a musician to be ready for college.” With that goal in mind, they began to plan an event where the high school students would perform with SMTD students in a concert setting – and not in just any setting, but amidst the beauty and grandeur of Hill Auditorium.

While Crutcher worked with the Crescendo Detroit and Detroit Harmony students, Snyder planned the concert. She set out to choose an eclectic repertoire so the high school students could get a sense of the wide range of band music – including a piece that has an electronic track and elements of improvisation. “I wanted them to realize that there’s a diversity in the medium and to make sure that they could see band music through different lenses,” she noted. She also wanted to ensure that a faculty member would be highlighted, so she included a piece with a concerto to be performed by David Zerkel, professor of tuba and euphonium. “That’s a high-level performance,” she noted, that would not typically be seen by high school band members. The concert also included two pieces to be conducted by graduate student conductors and, of course, pieces that the Concert Band would perform with the 17 high school musicians – one conducted by Snyder, and one by Crutcher.

Two young marimba players, wearing matching black tshirts, play together in a rehearsal hall with others seated nearby
Close-up on a row of brass students playing together during rehearsal

Students from Crescendo Detroit and Detroit Harmony rehearse in preparation for the March 17 concert with the U-M Concert Band. Photo credit: Chris Boyes

Snyder and Crutcher felt it was important for all involved to have the chance to connect beyond just performing together. So they arranged for the Detroit students to come to Ann Arbor the Wednesday before the concert to rehearse with the Concert Band and tour the campus, a key aspect of helping them envision themselves as U-M students. Then, with their parents, the high schoolers returned to Ann Arbor on the day of the concert, arriving early for the dress rehearsal. During rehearsals and for the concert itself, Snyder had the high school students sit amongst the SMTD students, encouraging them all to interact with each other more directly. To further foster connection, Snyder planned time for the students and parents to socialize and share a meal before the concert. “I wanted it to be more of an event and a gathering, instead of just, ‘Come and play with us and then be done,’” Snyder recalled. “I heard from the parents that they really liked that aspect. It made them feel very welcome.”

Close side view of Crutcher conducting on stage with several woodwind players of the ensemble in view
Close side view of Snyder conducting with baton and chin raised, and the Hill Auditorium ceiling above

Damien Crutcher (left) and Courtney Snyder (right) conduct during the March 17 concert featuring the U-M Concert Band and students from Crescendo Detroit and Detroit Harmony. Photo credit: Peter Smith Photography

With support from within and outside the U-M community, Snyder was able to add extra touches to the experience and facilitate participation from the Detroit students. She applied for and obtained a Diversity and Inclusion Grant (DIG) from SMTD’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, which paid for the meal on the day of the concert. The University of Michigan Band Alumni Association (UMBAA) provided funding for transportation and other expenses, as did Meridian Winds, a woodwind and brass instrument sales and repair company based in Okemos, Michigan. And Heikk’s Decorated Apparel Studio in Ypsilanti, Michigan, donated “Michigan Bands” hoodies for the high school students to commemorate the occasion.

Students perform in a band on stage, some wearing all-black and others wearing blue hoodies

Students from the U-M Concert Band, Crescendo Detroit, and Detroit Harmony perform in Hill Auditorium, March 17, 2024. Photo credit: Peter Smith Photography

The concert proved to be a positive, successful experience for all involved. “It was neat to get emails from the parents,” Snyder recalled, with some reporting their kids’ renewed commitment to practicing their instrument and a fresh sense of inspiration after the concert. Snyder hopes it will lead to many more collaborations between SMTD and the students of Crescendo Detroit and Detroit Harmony, paving the way for the younger musicians to study music at the college level. “This has inspired them to see themselves in that space, so they can challenge themselves to try to achieve it,” she said. Crutcher also saw great potential in bringing Crescendo Detroit and Detroit Harmony students together with SMTD. “The students had an amazing experience,” Crutcher shared. “As we were rehearsing at Hill and during the concert, you could see their worlds expanding. They will never forget this experience, and we know that sometimes, all it takes is one experience to make us dream.”

Latest News