This started out as a tribute to my sister who happens to play cello in a volunteer orchestra…The Detroit Medical Orchestra (DMO).  As a family, we have all performed in organized musical environments.  Though I was the only one that went on to play professionally, I, by my own definition, am not the most talented.  My oldest sister, the one that got us all started, has a wonderful voice and she plays violin, clarinet and guitar.  She was part of Cass Technical High School‘s music curriculum in the 60’s where she studied harp and piano too.  My oldest brother is amazing.  There is not an instrument on the planet that he hasn’t played and played well.  I can remember him lugging home first a string bass and then a tuba on several occasions “in the snow” when he was in junior high school.  His understanding of music from symphonic orchestration to hip-hop puts him in a class all by himself. 

The brother that is two years older than me plays flute, bass guitar and a little piano.  I, of course play guitar, but can also play clarinet (B-flat and alto) and viola.  You should not be surprised to read here that at one time my brothers and I were in a band together and yes, the Beatles were a major influence. 

I found out later in life that one of my youngest sisters has an incredible voice.  I missed her high school choir performances because I was on the road following my musical dream of being a “rock star”, but having had the opportunity to hear her “chirp” at some of our family gatherings has made me wish that I had been around to appreciate her talent and watch it develop over the years. 

Then there is the youngest, who after years of taking cello lessons has made the transition from perpetual student to “student-performer”, and is doing a good job of keeping the tradition alive. 

There are those that know my family and if they were to be reading this would say I have identified only six siblings, leaving out one sister.  So in a poor attempt to keep everybody happy, I will say that this sister, who is just after me in years…well, she can dance.  After all, somebody has to let us know if the tunes have a good beat, the words are meaningful and if it going to be a Top 10 hit or not.

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, as a musical family, we were not all that unique.  There was music coming from everywhere.  There were many “Jacksons before the Jacksons”.  It made no difference if you were white or black, music, more than sports, was the tie that brought our communities together.  Many from my neighborhood went on to have respected musical careers…Kevin Toney, with the BlackByrds.  David Shields, who played bass for Bobby Womack and is the bass player on the iconic “Got To Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn.  Vaughn Klugh the cousin of Earl Klugh used to prowl the streets as a kid, challenging everybody with his guitar.  The vocal group, “Enchantment” and their band all went to high school with me.  The “Dramatics” went to school with my brother.  And who can forget Gino “Gino Is A Coward” Washington!  I know I have missed a few, but time and space dictates that I move on.  The point I am trying to make is that music played a part in the development of so many of the youth during that time and its role has not been diminished over the years.  That was what I witnessed at yesterday’s concert.

The performance that I saw yesterday was, as previously mentioned, by the DMO.  What is unique about this group of performers was that they are all professional medical people.  Though they have demanding jobs and schedules, they are very committed to playing music.  This is not a “pop” band.  The selections they have chosen to perform are some of the toughest pieces I have ever heard.  They have played works by Copeland, Dvorak, Sibelius and Schubert in their first two concerts…a very ambitious and aggressive start for an orchestra as young as this.  Founded by Pamella Abghari, M.D. and Michelle Ubels in 2009, they had their first performance in April 2010 and have plans to conduct two performances in 2011, with the first yesterday and the second on May 1st.

What is most compelling about this group and probably about community orchestra’s overall, is why they are doing it.  In this case, as it probably is with other groups, it goes beyond their love of music.  This is not a “quest for glory”.  They don’t need to be called “rock stars” (an overused term anyway).  Besides the emotional relief it gives them from their day-to-day existences, it has also given them the opportunity to yet make another contribution to the community and society at large.  Proceeds from their performances have gone to a few worthwhile causes, like, Children’s Hospital of Michigan.  Last night’s performance was on the behalf of S.A.Y., a charity that is focused on the needs and welfare of homeless women and their children. 

S.A.Y. (Super All Year Detroit) was formed by noted writer and radio personality Mitch Albom, inconjunction with the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries.  It is the “first ever free medical clinic devoted entirely to homeless children and mothers”. 

“Open 24/7, the clinic will provide maintenance and preventive healthcare, including immunization, diabetes screening, and blood pressure testing, and with special attention to their most common health problems.  The clinic will operate with a staff of nurse practitioners and on-call physicians including a pediatrics specialist, OB/GYN specialist, and a nutritionist.  Offering a wide range of health services, the clinic will accept walk-ins and run a pick-up service at several Detroit shelters.” 

It has been reported that music aids in the healing of the sick.  Here we are witness to it aiding the community as well.  So what’s the bottom line?  The bottom line is that this organization needs your support as probably do all of the community orchestras’ in our area.  They need your assistance so that they can continue to provide support to causes like the above and many others. 

Donations to the DMO will be accepted in the form of a check written to Wayne State University:

  • Musician’s Circle – Up to $99
  • Conductor’s Circle – $100 to $249
  • Concertmaster’s Circle – $250 and above

For further information, please contact the DMO at detroitmedorch@gmail.com

 

For my sister, who doesn’t want her name used in my blog, I would like to say we are all very proud to see you continue our musical legacy.  For the DMO, keep up the good work.  I intend to see and enjoy many of your concerts in the future.  For the other community bands in the area, may you all get the support you need from the communities that you perform for.  What you do is important  though, you may not get the recognition you richly deserve.  Lastly, to the people, please continue to attend these shows and supporting the causes that they represent.  Bring your children…tell your neighbors…for the legacy of community music goes beyond just playing music…it is about helping the community one performance at a time.

S.A.Y. Detroit Family Health Clinic is located at 211 Glendale in Highland Park, MI

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