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'Towards a More Perfect Union' explores challenges through music

The performance aims to encourage social change through music, spoken-word and film


"ASU's Symphony Orchestra is showcasing diversity in music and addressing social issues with latest concert." Illustration published on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2019.

ASU professors, students and nationally-recognized artists are coming together to revamp the traditional, orchestral concert.

Award-winning composers are collaborating with the ASU Symphony Orchestra for the debut performance of “Towards a More Perfect Union” to address social issues and challenges of our time. 

The performance will be taking place at ASU Gammage on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. 

"Towards a More Perfect Union" will generate the conventional symphonic experience into an immersive, welcoming world of new ideas, dialogue and hope. Composers will come together to share personal stories and experiences through film, song and spoken word.

Daniel Roumain, a professor of practice in the School of Music, is a co-director and composer of "Towards a More Perfect Union." He said this performance will tell the stories of multiple different artists through different mediums, including spoken-word and music.

“We don’t have enough people of color and or women writing for the orchestra in such a dramatic way,” Roumain said. “I thought it would be important to do it on the Tempe campus, in a state and place, where diversity is hard to find.” 

Jeffery Meyer, co-director for "Towards a More Perfect Union" and associate music professor at ASU, said the project began two years ago with a conversation between Roumain and him on the lack of diversity in the world of music.

Roumain and Meyer have plans to "shake things up" in the realm of traditional symphony orchestras.

“What it means to be a symphony orchestra is changing in the United States, and I want ASU to be on the forefront of that change,” Meyer said.

The two composers put together a commission competition to find a composer who could write an original piece for this event. The winner of this competition, Carlos Simon, an African American composer, will be performing a new piece that illustrates the social issues the country is currently facing. 

The performance will feature several other artists performing their own works in collaboration with ASU Symphony Orchestra. Each artist will tell a personal story based on their own accounts of social injustice.

Michelle Di Russo, a third-year doctoral student in orchestral conducting and assistant conductor to Meyer, will be conducting a piece by Simon titled, “This Land.” 

“It is such an honor to be part of this inspiring project, especially as a female and Latinx immigrant in this country," Di Russo said. "Seeing myself represented not only in the music we will be performing, but also being featured as an artist is very special to me."

Di Russo, along with the other members of the ASU Symphony Orchestra, will be performing alongside Grammy Award Winning artists.

“'Towards a More Perfect Union' gives a diverse group of traditionally underrepresented voices a space in the symphonic concert hall," Di Russo said. "Music has the power to bring performances and audiences from diverse backgrounds together, opening new lines of communication and discussion.”

Roumain said he hopes the outcome of this event will open the audience's eyes, and will start a dialogue about various social issues. 

"I hope the concert actually answers some questions but asks more," Roumain said. "For anyone who comes, I hope they hear something new, see something new and hopefully think about something in a new way.” 

Reach the reporter at and @JadinStatePress on Twitter. 

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