Phantom Detroit

Presented by Rick Robinson & The Urban Requiem Project


Combining street poetry, classical and gospel music, background video designs and standing art displays, Phantom Detroit will highlight the continuing income disparity and gentrification issues in Detroit and Highland Park through two free multimedia concerts - one intimate gathering and the other a large community event. 

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About the Artist

During 22 years playing double bass in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), Rick Robinson began attempting the difficult task of resetting the context of classical music in broader communities. Robinson began, however, in a fourth-generation musical family of Highland Park (MI). Then he began to lead as a bass student at Interlochen Arts Academy, Cleveland Institute of Music and New England Conservatory. He held principal positions in the Akron, Canton (OH) and Portland (ME) symphony orchestras, as well as the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra with composer John Williams. Robinson won a small concerto competition in 1986, played solo recitals annually and informally studied conducting. As a bass substitute for both the Boston and Detroit symphony orchestras, Robinson was offered and accepted DSO membership in 1989 to resolve a political demand by two Michigan state legislators for more African-American members. Intending to share hit symphonic music in new ways, by 1994 Robinson launched CutTime Players, a premiere eight-piece ensemble of DSO musicians performing his transcriptions for concerts, educational, outreach and fundraising services.

After Robinson started to publish these in 1999, he slowly began composing and launched a string sextet called CutTime Simfonica by the year 2010 with works that often blend urban dance grooves with conventional classical modes of expression. He won his Kresge Artist Fellowship for composition that year and also began organizing the daring “new classical” series Classical Revolution Detroit. By 2012 Robinson left the DSO sanctuary to develop and spread the gospel of New Classical nationally with young musicians and new listeners. A pivotal point came when he was invited to join The Urban Requiem Project street poets by Founder Virgil Taylor in 2017 as this remains a golden opportunity to make classical music truly accessible and reflective of wider communities.