A lot can happen in a decade. The very fabric of society itself can change over the course of one year, let alone 10 of them. Ten years ago family members could walk their loved ones to the departing gate of a flight, something practically impossible these days and10 years ago not many people, especially in the Black community, would have said they would see a Black president in their lifetime.

In the music business, the odds are stacked highly against any musician that he/she will remain relevant for more than a handful of years. To retain any type of longevity takes talent, hard work, and undoubtedly a stroke or two of luck. It may have been one, two, or all three of the aforementioned reasons, but Soulful Symphony has been beating the odds for the past decade.

As a testament to its perseverance, Soulful Symphony will be celebrating its landmark anniversary at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall Oct. 30
Founded and conducted by Darin Atwater, the 75-member orchestra is comprised primarily of African-American and Latino musicians. Throughout its existence, the orchestra has bucked the confinements of traditional classical music, instead making what can only be referred to as a unique, one-of-a-kind sound. Atwater is known to combine a range of musical styles in his work, including gospel, jazz, R&B, and hip hop. The orchestra has prided itself on pushing the boundaries of traditional classical music, using a harmony of different sounds that can go from thoughtful and melancholy one moment to upbeat and rhythmic the next.

Throughout its existence, the Baltimore-based orchestra and its composer have achieved success at both the local and national levels. Soulful Symphony formed a historic joint venture with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2004. This venture has given the orchestra the opportunity to spread its unique brand of classical music to those across the state. Soulful Symphony has since performed sold-out shows at both the Meyerhoff in Baltimore and the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Md.

Atwater himself has received recognition and positive reviews on his music from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. NBC named him in The Grio 100 along with other celebrity powerhouses such as Oprah Winfrey and LeBron James. Ebony magazine placed him on its “30 Leaders of the Future” list and the Baltimore Business Journal placed him on its “40 under 40” list. Atwater is also no stranger to receiving hardware. He was the recipient of the 2009 Vision Award from Maryland Public Television and the 2008 Legends and Pioneers Award from The Afro- American Newspaper.

Song in a Strange Land, currently receiving national airplay on PBS, earned Atwater an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Meanwhile, Atwater and Soulful Symphony are gearing up to be even more successful. More large scale works are in the planning stages, including one titled Audacity of Hope, based on the book written by President Barack Obama. With Atwater pursuing a Los Angeles based entertainment venture to further transform and expand Soulful Symphony, the next 10 years will surely see Soulful Symphony leave its mark on classical music like none before.

Soulful Symphony takes place at the Meyerhoff Oct. 30. Tickets for the event range from $26 to $69. For more information visit soulful-song.org.


Kyle Taylor

Special to the AFRO