City of Detroit to offer special, televised performance of young Detroit poets and Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians with words and music from the pandemic

  • Funded by the Kresge Foundation, the one-of-a-kind evening filmed at Orchestra Hall, let students, through poetry, share how traumatized they were to lose school, family and a sense of peace for years
  • The special, called “Duets,” will air on WDIV-Local 4 at 12:30 p.m. (EST) Friday, April 14 following the noon news.


The City Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE) will present a special television event Friday featuring young poets from the Inside Out Literary Arts program and the Detroit Public Schools Community District paired with musicians from the Detroit Symphony with works from the pandemic.

In Detroit, many children were already dealing with trauma, which impacts learning. A 2019 survey done by DPSCD found that 90 percent of teachers and principals across the district reported that more than half their students have been impacted by trauma that impedes their learning.

Rochelle Riley, the city’s Director of Arts and Culture and a former newspaper columnist, examined children and trauma extensively in a multi-part series in the Detroit Free Press.

“In interviews with school officials across the region, it is clear that districts in Michigan like many across the country are struggling to meet their primary goal of educating children because they are not equipped to deal with teaching children in pain,” she wrote in 2019. “The way many districts handle the problem is to place children — even those with no learning disabilities — in special education classes. Or they suspend them when their behavior becomes disruptive, and teachers and principals feel they have to choose the many over the few.”

Layer onto that the trauma of the global Covid-19 pandemic, and children were at great risk for depression and impact on their ability to do schoolwork, particularly in isolation.

Enter the Kresge Foundation, where Wendy Lewis Jackson saw an opportunity.

“During the pandemic, in many ways, we were surrounded by silence and the importance of having young people elevate their voice, have greater agency through the arts, this was a perfect opportunity to do that,” Jackson said.”

The “Duets” project was made possible by partnerships with Inside Out Literary Arts and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

“My hope is that everyone, particularly adults who serve children and know children, pay more attention to how the pandemic is affecting them,” Riley said. “Children are treated like pawns in a chess game, moved around to ensure that people get back to work, that test score goals are met, that groups of kids move up from one grade to the next. But life is not normal yet, and we need to pay attention.”

To watch the video again, visit

Established in 2019, the City’s Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE) oversees the City’s investment in and support of one of the best and brightest creative workforces in the country. The Office also works to ensure that opportunities to work in and experience arts and culture in all its forms are available to residents year-round across the city.