Unique Bequest Leaves Musicians of Detroit Symphony Reeling

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July 15, 2016; Detroit Free Press

When Phillip Fisher, chairman emeritus of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) board, personally told the musicians last week of a bequest made by his mother, Marjorie Fischer, a collective gasp went up, because it was to the 78 musicians themselves—each of whom would receive $5,000. It may be the first time such a gift has been made to the individuals making the music.

But there is evidently good reason for the loving form of the gift. Principal bassist Kevin Brown said, “It gets to the heart of the idea of the DSO family. When I came here two years ago, I was struck by how close we got to our patrons, more than in other places, and this gift is an extension of that. […] I’m grateful. I feel like it’s something that bonds musicians and patrons in a new way and shows us we’re appreciated in such a direct, tangible way.”

That a bequest was made is no surprise. Marjorie Fisher was the wife of Detroit industrialist and philanthropist Max Fisher, and the extended family has a long history of supporting the DSO, among other causes. The family has gifted more than $25 million over the years to the DSO for endowment, building construction, touring, and education programming.

In 2005, Marjorie Fisher became the founding chair of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation of Detroit, where she helped direct more than $70 million in grants to such diverse causes as children’s dental care in Palm Beach County, youth employment and blight removal in Detroit, and, of course the DSO, with whose musicians she had a special relationship even after she moved to Florida.—Ruth McCambridge