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Detroit Composers’ Project: Songs & Stories

A collaboration between composers and storytellers to present new works that highlight the power of sharing stories in both art forms.


Detroit Composers’ Project is partnering with local storyteller and live performance producer Patricia Wheeler to present Songs & Stories, a commissioning project and interdisciplinary collaboration between artists in the community to present live storytelling alongside premieres of new music. In Spring 2021, the project will culminate in the performance four new musical works by emerging composers to be created, developed, workshopped and premiered alongside performances of four local storytellers. 

Our performance will present premieres from composers Sonya Belaya (Detroit/NYC), Harriet Steinke (Detroit, MI), Marcus Elliot (Detroit, MI), and a fourth Detroit or Michigan-based composer to be determined through an open call in Fall 2020. The four Detroit-based storytellers include Patricia Wheeler, Dame Wilburn, Satori Shakoor, and Shannon Cason. The new musical works will be premiered by a small ensemble of established, Detroit-based performers that reflect Detroit’s rich and varied musical landscape. Our anticipated performance venue is the Detroit Public Library.

Composers will work closely with their assigned storyteller to identify and explore points of entry into each others’ creative processes and create musical works that reflect on, accompany, contrast, and/or highlight each of the four unique stories, producing a performance experience that flows freely between both art forms.

Storytellers have a long-standing oral tradition as preservers of cultural history. By pairing storytellers with composers, the project reflects on two traditions that, although very different, carry the heavy weight of cultural preservation. This  project seeks to, above all, facilitate a universal and intimate experience among local artists and audiences by creating a performance that demands vulnerable self-exploration and self-reflection. Our project is rooted in the personal experiences and performance practices of local artists, promoting the power of live performance to highlight the wide range of unique stories and experiences in our community.

Songs & Stories began with the vision of the pianist and composer Sonya Belaya who sought to create a musical series that would inspire and connect artists and audiences through the power of storytelling in both art forms. In 2019, Belaya collaborated with Wheeler on a similar project to premiere Belaya’s song cycle alongside performances by storytellers under the theme of “mothers and motherhood” (the trailer is included below). Belaya has roots in Detroit’s musical community and will bring critical experience and passion to project leadership.

This project will be designed, developed, and implemented by Detroit Composers’ Project, a new, artist-run organization aimed at building opportunities for meaningful collaboration inside and outside of Detroit. The organization is led by Harriet Steinke, who has helped DCP commission and premiere works from over 10 composers in the past 2 years.

Our project’s artistic leadership regularly partners with artists and institutions including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Public Library, Pro Musica of Detroit, and Wayne State University. These relationships allow our organization to build community support for our programs and further ensure the success of this project.

Project Media

Sonya Belaya’s “Songs and Stories My Mother Taught Me” Trailer
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2019 Performance produced by Sonya Belaya and Patricia Wheeler integrating live music and storytelling.

Detroit Composers’ Project Performances and Artist Testimonials
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Detroit Composers’ Project Performances and Artist Testimonials from our 2018 concert that commissioned and premiered 6 new works in partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Marcus Elliot’s “Beyond Rebellious”
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Features: Marcus Elliot

A performance at the Detroit Institute of Arts of a collaborative work and ensemble that Marcus Elliot created and led.

Start and End Dates



Detroit, Michigan

Project Created By

Detroit, Michigan
Detroit Composers’ Project is a new organization aiming to empower composers and performers by creating opportunities for meaningful collaboration and imaginative performances, inside and outside of the Detroit-area. Our team came together over a year ago, in hopes of building more opportunities for composers and performers to collaborate on contemporary music. We are equally passionate about both facilitating meaningful…

In Collaboration With

Artistic Producer, Composer, Pianist
Brooklyn, New York
Storyteller, Producer
Detroit, Michigan
Composer, Detroit Composers' Project Managing Director
Detroit, Michigan


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