In Memory of Anne Parsons

She led the DSO for 17 years, creating a legacy of cultural relevance and artistic brilliance that will be remembered and cherished 

Our city lost one of its great cultural leaders on the eve of Monday, March 28, 2022.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra President Emeritus Anne Parsons passed away following a courageous battle with cancer. All of Detroit mourns her passing.

She presided over the DSO from 2004 until last year when she stepped down for health reasons. For arts organizations everywhere, those years were a time of challenge and change, which Anne handled with her characteristic wisdom, strength and dedication, leading the orchestra to new heights of musical excellence and community engagement.

RELATED: Detroit Symphony Orchestra Names Anne Parsons New President, CEO

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Current President and CEO Erik Rönmark and Board Chair Mark Davidoff issued a joint statement lauding her for never wavering in her belief that “Detroit is a vibrant and resilient city that deserves an orchestra to match. Anne’s accomplishments as our President and CEO are immeasurable and will resonate deeply within our organization, across our communities, and in the orchestra industry for decades to come.”

Anne Parsons understood the importance of not only presenting world-class music to regular concertgoers, but also reaching out to the larger community and making the DSO’s programming available to the widest possible audience.

She was an innovator and a collaborator with deep respect for the city she served. Under her leadership, the DSO launched various initiatives to present concerts throughout the community, notably in Detroit neighborhoods. Detroit Harmony was its program to make instruments and musical education available to school children.

She was a champion of diversity both in programming and in the people she worked with. And perhaps even more noteworthy in this era of fractured and shrinking audiences across the cultural landscape, she was able to balance the DSO’s budget consistently.

At Detroit Public TV and 90.9 WRCJ, we found Anne and her team an exceptionally willing partner, whom we collaborated with on numerous projects, including assembling a statewide network of classical music stations to broadcast and stream DSO concerts and producing a documentary series celebrating the centennial of Orchestra Hall.

In the coming days, our classical music station 90.9 WRCJ, along with DPTV, will be honoring Anne Parsons in a variety of programming.

Here is a video clip that WRCJ’s classical music hosts, PeterWhorf and Dave Wagner, recorded today remembering all that Anne meant to them and to the city.

Many other individuals and organizations would be equal in their praise of this tireless and thoughtful leader, who did so much to weave her beloved DSO into the cultural fabric of our city and region.

With Anne Parsons and the DSO, our community made beautiful music together. We know that the orchestra and those who follow her will continue and enhance her remarkable legacy.


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Full Transcript

Peter Whorf, Sr. Manager, Midday Host, WRCJ 90.0 FM: Dave, we’ve just learned this morning that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra president and CEO emeritus, Anne Parsons has died after a courageous battle with cancer. What will you remember most about her as her musical legacy with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra?

Dave Wagner, Host, The Morning Show, WRCJ 90.9 FM: Well, Peter, I think her total commitment to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, to the arts in Detroit, to the organization that she was so devoted to, and the organization that she worked so diligently to promote and to see be successful, as they continue their legacy as a great American symphony orchestra.

Peter Whorf:  Difficult times can really highlight strong leadership, and I think we saw that during her tenure. Not long after joining the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, she led the organization through a very difficult strike period. Of course, the pandemic came along, and she led us through that without really kind of blinking and continuing with online performances of the DSO. What were some of the leadership qualities you saw with Anne Parsons?

Dave Wagner: Well, I think you really put your finger on it, you know, and also, we went through the time of the economic downturn, which was so difficult for all arts organizations. And yet she kept the focus on making sure that there was a devotion to excellence. And always remaining positive and always looking toward the future, even while you’re going through difficult times, of being optimistic, knowing things were going to get better and that the orchestra was central in her focus, trying to always move that orchestra forward through any sort of obstacles that can be presented.

And also, I have to say that she was a great supporter, and really had a great understanding of the importance of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s role being back on the radio and promoting the orchestra through radio broadcasts. And also, promoting the orchestra through the community concerts that they gave. Introducing the orchestra, bringing the orchestra to the community, not just expecting people to always come down to the hall here in midtown Detroit. So, she was a real ambassador on so many different fronts for not only the Detroit Symphony Orchestra but in other arts organizations.

Peter Whorf: Anne Parsons was a leader in music and arts organizations from coast to coast, from Boston to New York City, to Los Angeles and elsewhere. And here in Detroit, she was really uncompromising in her view, and that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra should be the best among the orchestras across the country and around the world. How do you think her legacy with the DSO and its rise over the years will be remembered?

Dave Wagner: Well, I think you put your finger on exactly. It was that type of commitment toward excellence and toward having the orchestra remain within the top ranks of orchestras here in the United States, I think that will be her greatest legacy. It takes leadership qualities, like the type of qualities that Anne possessed, to just be uncompromising in her devotion to her organization.

Again, as I said earlier, always remaining positive and always doing her best to move the organization forward. That’s a fantastic legacy that she leaves, and the team that she helped put in place at the orchestra is going to be able to continue on and be able to really bring that work continually to fruition.

Peter Whorf: Our condolences and peace to everyone in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Anne Parsons musical family. We’ll remember Anne Parsons for her love for music here in the Detroit area. Anne Parsons, who passed away late Monday night at the age of 64. Dave Wagner is host of “The Morning Show” and “The Drive Time Elixir” on WRCJ. Thank you, Dave.

Dave Wagner: Thank you, Peter. I’m so glad that we could take these moments and remember the great Anne Parsons and all the work that she did. She will very well be missed.


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