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Music proves Detroit is "Structurally Sound"

Last Saturday night, the walls of Detroit’s Green Garage were reported to have been…singing. Or so it would seem to anyone walking along the “Green Alley” behind the Green Garage as the sun was setting. Upon further investigation, there is more to this story.

The Green Garage is one of seven venues to have been featured so far on Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings‘ cutting edge concert and lecture series, cleverly titled, Structurally Sound (see the list of venues near the bottom of this post).  Venues like the Green Garage are selected because of their history and their unique architectural attributes.

Musicians like DCWS’ trumpet player, David Ammer who performed on Saturday night, create a musical program that is inspired by the space and the history of the venue. They walk through the space to get a sense of it visually, while learning about its history. Then they get creative.

In the case of the Green Garage, there are many potential elements to explore. The original building dates back to 1920. It started as a showroom for Model-T based automobiles. Fast forward 95 years of rich history, and today 4444 Second Avenue in Midtown, houses one of the most interesting places in Detroit.

I was hiding, taking photos from the second floor, of both the musicians and the beautiful architecture. This is the ceiling.

Taking photos from the second floor of both the musicians and the architecture. This is the ceiling.

The Green Garage is a building, and a beautiful one at that. However, as stated on its website, it is also a triple-bottom-line business enterprise, and a community of people dedicated to Detroit’s sustainable future. It is filled with both new and established entrepreneurial businesses. This business incubator attracts those who want to be a part of an environmentally and socially accountable community; they enjoy ongoing efforts to reduce waste, water and energy at work, resulting in a more sustainable office environment. 

From Ford Model Ts to a business incubator…David Ammer had a lot to work with. He wove together a program that featured 12 20th century American composers, including living legend, William Bolcom and George Antheil, who in addition to writing 300 pieces of music, also wrote an autobiography titled, “Bad Boy of Music.” David partnered with musicians Melissa Maloney (soprano) and Matthew Thompson (piano).

Melissa Maloney & Matthew Thompson perform at the Green Garage.

Melissa Maloney & Matthew Thompson perform at the Green Garage.

Much of the music was reminiscent of the time period in the early days of the building’s history, however, David did not miss the opportunity to reflect the innovation that permeates the Green Garage. To start the second half of the program, audience members turned in their seats because they heard a bright and brilliant new fanfare written by David himself.

David premiere's his new fanfare to announce the second half.

David perform’s his new fanfare to announce the second half of the concert.

And the concert would conclude with an encore, titled Detroit, perfectly chosen for this evening and venue. The audience was filled with patrons of Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings, along with many of the business owners from the Green Garage’s community, and the year three fellows from Challenge Detroit. When Detroit concluded, the audience was on its feet.

Structurally Sound launched in 2012 with the first concert taking place at the Piquette Plant, another building with a historical tie to the Ford Model T (it was the factory where Ford built the first Model T). Subsequent venues have included:

The Qube (formerly, Chase Tower)
Red Bull House of Art 
Recycle Here
The Chrysler House (formerly, the Dime Building)
Michigan Hot Glass (located in the Russell Industrial Center)

But Structurally Sound is just one of three different series offered by Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings, an organization filled with musicians from the Michigan Opera Theatre and Detroit Symphony Orchestra. As innovative as Structurally Sound is, innovation is not new to DCWS. Creative partnership such as the one with the College for Creative Studies back in the fall, or the most recent partnership with the Cranbrook Art Museum are the norm at DCWS, where keeping chamber music fresh and inventive is a way of life.

The next DCWS concert will take place at Hagopian World of Rugs in Birmingham on Friday, April 10th. The intimate concert will feature Michigan State University saxophone professor, Diego Rivera. Visit the DCWS website for tickets and more information.

Here’s what I loved about this concert:

1. Hearing music in spectacular spaces that were not meant for concerts is one of my favorite things to do.

2. Excellent trumpet playing by David Ammer. (I am a trumpet player after all!)

3. I was able to sneak around, taking photos from second floor, while marveling at the incredible architecture of the building.

Here’s what you would have loved about the concert:

1. Hanging out in the Green Garage, one of the most visually pleasing and architecturally interesting spaces in Detroit.

2. The music was very approachable, complete with a few cabaret numbers and the hit encore, Detroit. Even a novice listener would have enjoyed this concert.

3. The rich history of the building that was interwoven throughout the performance.

Natalie Bruno
Natalie Bruno is the Director of Talent & Organizational Culture at Mango Languages, a business that enriches lives through language and culture, via cutting-edge language-learning software. Prior to this appointment, she was the Chief Operating Officer & Vice President for Development with Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings, Eisenhower Dance, and the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival. In 2009, she launched Detroit Passport to the Arts with a group of young professionals and was named one of Crain’s Detroit Business 2010 “40 Under 40” honorees for her work in attracting audiences to cultural organizations. A native of Chicago, Natalie has made Metro Detroit her home since 2003. She remains active on the board of Detroit Passport to the Arts, and also serves on the board of Challenge Detroit. Follow her @NatalieBruno11.