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Detroit orchestra tours Florida to share the cultural rebirth of that city

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Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 5:11 pm

SARASOTA, Fla. - This time of year, the Suncoast's balmy weather lures many great entertainers to town, happy to escape the snow and ice for sun and sand.

The City of Detroit has been through hard times, suffering decaying buildings, high unemployment, and a frightening crime rate. But now the mighty city is rising from the ashes, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is a symbol of that rebirth.

They are currently touring Florida to show off the music at the city's heart.

"I think they get very excited by the phoenix rising from the ashes. Although Detroit is a very cool place right now you feel it, you feel the energy, and we're part of the reason… we really are," says director Leonard Slatkin.Leonard Slatkin Conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

He says sometimes his style surprises people. "People don't expect me to be so animated on the stage. Most of my gestures are controlled, but when I let loose it turns out to be dramatic."

He compares conducting an orchestra to coaching a sports team. "Our job mostly takes place when the audience or public doesn't see it -- it's coaching sessions, rehearsals, and the end result is all the preparation that goes into it. And like a game, sometimes you have to improvise, but you know enough to produce your game plan."

Slatkin comes from a very musical family. "My dad was the concert master at 20th Centruy Fox. My mother was the first celloist. So if you ever saw film from the mid-1930’s to the mid-1957, it's my mom, it's my uncle."

And each time he conducts he still feels the thrill. “Just think, we're playing music, just dots, dashes, whatever it happens to be; we translate it into sound without using words, and we communicate with everybody."

International award-winning pianist Olga Kern is from a very musical family in Russia. She is playing Rachmaninoff -- a man her great grandmother, a singer, once worked with. "Rachmaninoff once accompanied my great-grandmother in a concert."

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Now she is renowned for playing his music.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra performed in Sarasota on Monday, and will conclude their Florida tour with a concert in Naples on Tuesday night.

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