Among the sites where instruments can be donated are the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center in Detroit, Farmington Community Band in Farmington Hills, Marshall Music Co. in West Bloomfield and PNC Bank in Novi.
Harold Kulish and George Nyman — longtime friends sharing an appreciation for hearing music and playing musical instruments — have become focused on providing similar experiences for young people.
They’re hoping Metro Detroiters will join them in creating opportunities along those lines, especially throughout October.
An idea they had two years ago and communicated to administrators at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) spurred the development of Detroit Harmony, an initiative to provide instruments and teach instrumental skills to Detroit K-12 students in public and private schools.
Throughout this month, there will be an inaugural drive for 2,500 instruments, new and used. Organizations and businesses have responded by offering drop-off sites.
The highlight will be Oct. 30 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, where the Michigan State University’s Spartan Marching Band and the University of Michigan’s Michigan Marching Band play up collection efforts as football fans attend that day’s game.
The schools plan to publicize the event on their social media.
“We couldn’t be prouder to support Detroit Harmony,” said U-M Band Director John Pasquale. “Music is such a powerful force in the world, and we look forward to collecting instruments to provide to Detroit students.”
David Thornton, associate band director at MSU, said, “We are thrilled to be partnering with DSO Harmony and the Michigan Marching Band to help the students of Detroit. Providing musical opportunities and experiences for our greater Michigan community is something that is incredibly important and is at the core of what we do as an organization.”
“The DSO is passionate about music education, according to Erik Rönmark, DSO vice president and general manager. “It’s great to see this art form continue. Music education is so important in finding ways for young people to express themselves through instruments. Beyond the students themselves, that benefits both the symphony and the city.”
The Joy of Music
Kulish and Nyman were organizing outdoor activities for youngsters at Detroit parks when they decided they wanted to add indoor activities to their projects. They chose musical opportunities because of the enjoyment they valued on a very personal level.
For Kulish, collecting instruments for Detroit Harmony began before October as he learned of a violin that was not being used and was able to obtain it. His interest moved along to his son, who has promised two trumpets that are no longer the preferred instruments of his own sons.
“When I was in elementary school in Southwest Detroit, they were teaching instruments,” recalls Kulish, CEO at Cormorant Co. in West Bloomfield, a DSO director emeritus and a grandson of a cantor.
“My family didn’t have the money to buy an instrument for me, but I had been given a harmonica. I took the harmonica to school when I was in fourth grade and asked the teacher if somebody could teach me. They took me into the music class, and they taught me. I play to this day.”
Nyman, owner of Professional Property Management in Birmingham, listened to the DSO before trying his own skills.
“I never had the opportunity to play an instrument as a kid, but from the first time I was taken to the symphony, I fell in love with classical music and later all kinds of music,” says Nyman, also active with the Anti-Defamation League.
“Last year, I started to take piano lessons believing it’s never too late. It’s something I always wanted to do, and I’m hoping a few young people will get a spark from any instrument that basically changes their lives.”
Damien Crutcher, whose instrumental interests were launched at Cass Technical High School, is managing director of Detroit Harmony. After earning a bachelor’s degree in music education at Michigan State University and a master’s degree in conducting at the University of Michigan, he became director of bands and orchestra at Southfield-Lathrup High School, music director and conductor of the Farmington Community Band and founder of Crescendo Detroit, a nonprofit providing instrumental training for students ages 5-18.
‘Transformative’ For Children
“Getting 2,500 instruments into the hands of Detroit students and enrolling them in a music program will be transformative for these kids,” Crutcher says.
“I’m looking forward to the day when all students in Detroit feel what it’s like to play that first note on an instrument.”
An associated program outcome would be economic development in Detroit with employment for teaching artists, instrument restorers and transportation providers among others.
Among the sites where instruments can be donated are the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center in Detroit, Farmington Community Band in Farmington Hills, Marshall Music Co. in West Bloomfield and PNC Bank in Novi. A map of collection sites is available at dso.org/community-and-learning/detroit-harmony.
Major support for the initial stage of Detroit Harmony comes from the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. Program enthusiasts are being sought to host an event, provide a drop-off site, spread the word, pick up instruments and purchase an instrument to donate.
As Kulish and Nyman enter into volunteer efforts, Kulish remembers two former classmates, one a Holocaust survivor, at Detroit’s Central High School.
The classmates were instrument students, one on bass and one on trumpet. Both became members of the Cleveland Orchestra.
“Detroit schools can produce players like that,” he says. “As for me, I think of how important the harmonica has been. Over many hours, I could relax and play, and it’s been very soothing.”