Longtime DSO leader Anne Parsons passes away

Parsons guided the DSO through a tumultuous period of nearly two decades that included the Great Recession, Detroit’s bankruptcy, a half-year long strike by musicians and the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Officials with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra say longtime former President and CEO Anne Parsons has died.

Parsons guided the DSO through a tumultuous period of nearly two decades that included the Great Recession, Detroit’s bankruptcy, a half-year long strike by musicians and the COVID-19 pandemic. During her tenure, she brought on two new music directors to Detroit—Leonard Slatkin in 2007 and Jader Bignamini in 2020—and helped raise the DSO’s profile nationally and internationally through touring and webcasts.

“Anne led our beloved orchestra with grace, courage and conviction, never wavering from her strongly held belief that the DSO is the best in the world, and that Detroit is a vibrant and resilient city that deserves an orchestra to match,” DSO President and CEO Erik Rönmark and Board Chair Mark Davidoff said in a statement. “Anne’s accomplishments as our president and CEO are immeasurable and will resonate deeply within our organization, across our local communities, and in the orchestra industry for decades to come.”

She also helped the DSO offer high-definition webcasts en route to becoming what she said she hoped would be the “most accessible orchestra on the planet.” In 2011, she oversaw the launch of “Live from Orchestra Hall,” making the DSO one of the first orchestras in the world to offer free, live high-definition webcasts. The orchestra also offered virtual programming during the pandemic.

“Anne led our beloved orchestra with grace, courage and conviction, never wavering from her strongly held belief that the DSO is the best in the world, and that Detroit is a vibrant and resilient city that deserves an orchestra to match.” —DSO President and CEO Erik Rönmark and Board Chair Mark Davidoff

Parsons also emphasized engaging orchestra fans throughout the region through different events and initiatives such as chamber music programs, senior engagement concerts, and, more recently, the Detroit Neighborhood Initiative, which brings the DSO to the neighborhoods.

Parsons retired last December to focus on the battle she ultimately lost against lung cancer.

“I have been honored to serve the remarkable Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the people of this vibrant and resilient city for the past 17 years,” Parsons said when announcing her retirement in April 2021. “It has been my absolute joy to be able to balance work, life and cancer treatments with full commitment, determination and optimism. Everyone in the DSO family has been a source of critical strength and sustenance, from our dedicated and passionate governance and staff to our extraordinary DSO musicians and music director Jader Bignamini—whose performances together have filled me with so much happiness.”

Prior to joining the DSO, she served in leadership positions for a variety of major arts organizations, including general manager of New York City Ballet, general manager of the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and orchestra manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Parsons was 64 years old. She is survived by her husband Donald Dietz and daughter Cara Dietz. The DSO plans to celebrate her life and legacy; an announcement is forthcoming.

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  • Quinn Klinefelter

    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.