DSO ‘Classical Roots’ Celebration Dedicated to Dr. Arthur L. Johnson


DETROIT, (Feb. 27, 2012) – The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) is proud to announce its annual Classical Roots Celebration will be dedicated to the late Dr. Arthur L. Johnson, who was the founder of the event and was recently made a lifetime board member of the DSO. This much-anticipated black tie celebration raises awareness about the contributions of African-Americans to classical music and supports increased opportunities through special programs, such as the DSO’s African-American Orchestral Fellowship Program, a mentoring opportunity for young professional musicians. The Classical Roots Concerts on Fri., Mar. 16 at 10:45 a.m. and Sat., Mar. 17 at 8 p.m. will also honor the late African-American composer Hale Smith.

“I am excited about the outstanding evening and musical program planned for this year’s Classical Roots Celebration.  The evening will feature amazingly talented musicians and we will be treated to a new composition by one of the most exciting young artists of our time, Daniel Bernard Roumain. I am also proud that we will take time to pay tribute to the memory of my husband, Arthur Johnson,” said Classical Roots Co-Chair Chacona W. Johnson.

The Celebration begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Max M. Fisher Music Center with a strolling dinner in The Music Box featuring performances by the DSO Civic Jazz Ensemble and the Detroit Children’s Choir, followed by the “Classical Roots” concert at 8 p.m. in Orchestra Hall. Following the concert, guests are invited to a dancing and dessert afterglow in the Atrium and The Music Box featuring DJ Global. The DSO will be led by guest conductor André Raphel, and will feature performances by soprano Janice Chandler-Eteme and the Brazeal Dennard Chorale, led by Augustus O. Hill. The concert will also feature the DSO Premier of “Dreamers, Dancers and Presidents” by Daniel Bernard Roumain.  Co-chairing the Classical Roots Celebration are Chacona W. Johnson and Herman B. Gray, M.D. with the support of more than 30 other Detroit-area citizens and corporate leaders committed to the Classical Roots mission.  The Celebration is sponsored by JPMorgan Chase.

“I am honored to co-chair, along with Chacona Johnson, the DSO’s Classical Roots Celebration — an evening to witness divine musical talent, well-deserved recognition and a special tribute for a very special man, the late Arthur Johnson. This is an important celebration of classical African-American music, with proceeds going to support African-American music development. It will be an evening to relish and cherish and I am truly looking forward to it,” said Classical Roots Co-Chair Dr. Herman Gray.

About Dr. Arthur L. Johnson

Arthur L. Johnson was born November 5, 1925 to Clara (Stewart) Johnson and raised in Americus, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama, by her and his stepfather James Johnson. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Morehouse College, where he was a member of the famous class of 1948, which included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While at Morehouse, Johnson established the first student chapter of the NAACP and organized the Morehouse Chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Following Morehouse, he earned a Master of Arts degree in sociology from Atlanta University. He completed a research fellowship at Fisk University and served as a special investigator and research assistant for the United States Health Department.

In 1950, Arthur began his career in Detroit as the Executive Director of the Detroit Branch of the NAACP where he fought to end racial discrimination and attain the promise of racial equality. He strategically led battles against housing, banking and employment discrimination, as well as police brutality and obtaining public accommodations in restaurants and hotels. One of his greatest legacies was the establishment of the Detroit’s Branch Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner.

During his career and throughout this retirement, Arthur was engaged with many cultural and civic organizations. He served on the board of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Science Center, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the University Cultural Center Association (Midtown), Arts League of Michigan, Art Serve, Detroit Public Television, American Symphony Orchestra League, Board of Visitors – Wayne State University School of Medicine.

His love of classical music brought him great pleasure. In his ongoing efforts to uplift the recognition of African Americans’ contribution to classical music, he was the inspirational leader and founder of the Classical Roots Celebration fundraising event at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to support programs such as the DSO’s African American Orchestral Fellowship.

Arthur departed this life at home on November 1, 2011 after a 12 year battle with Parkinson’s disease. As usual, he fought a good fight with exceptional dignity and grace.

About Hale Smith

Hale Smith is regarded as one of America’s finest composers. He also had a distinguished career as an arranger, editor, and educator. Born in Cleveland, Ohio on June 29, 1925, he began study of the piano at age seven, and his initial performance experience included both classical and jazz music. After military service (1943-45), he entered the Cleveland Institute of Music as a composition major, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1950 and a master’s degree in 1952. His principal teachers were Ward Lewis in theory and Marcel Dick, his only teacher of composition.

Tickets for the DSO’s Classical Roots Concerts range in price from $15 to $50 with a limited number of box seats available for $100. Tickets may be purchased at the Max M. Fisher Music Center box office (3711 Woodward Avenue, Detroit); by phone at (313) 576-5111; or online at www.dso.org. For group ticket information (groups of 10 or more), please contact Chuck Dyer at (313) 576-5130 or cdyer@dso.org.

Classical Roots Celebration tickets, which include the reception and strolling dinner, the Classical Roots performance and the post-concert dancing and dessert, start at $150. All tickets include valet parking. Sponsorship opportunities ranging from $1,000-$25,000 are also available. For further information about individual tickets and sponsorships or to make a reservation, please contact Aja Stephens at (313) 576-5106 or astephens@dso.org.



Andrè Raphel, conductor; Janice Chandler-Eteme, soprano; Brazeal Dennard Chorale

Fri., Mar. 16 at 10:45 a.m.

Sat. Mar. 17 at 8 p.m.

JOHNSON                                                   Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing

DANIEL BERNARD ROUMAIN          Dreamers, Dancers and Presidents

arr. SMITH                                                Jesus Lay Your Head In The Window from Four Spirituals

Let Us Break Bread Together from Four Spirituals

This Little Light of Mine from Four Spirituals

Witness from Four Spirituals

SMITH                                                        By Yearning and By Beautiful

DAWSON                                                   Negro Folk Symphony

The Bond of Africa

Hope in the Night

O Le’ Me Shine, Shine Like a Morning Star!


Max M. Fisher Music Center

Sponsored by JPMorgan Chase

Sat., Mar. 17

6:30 p.m. Reception and Strolling Dinner

8 p.m. Classical Roots Concert

10:30 p.m. Dessert & Dancing Afterglow

Black Tie Event


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