Salad Days

Binge-drinking isn't even remotely compatible with parenthood, so Sunday mornings find my husband and me clear-headed, albeit bleary-eyed-tired from a long week of toddler-chasing. We cling to two other vices when the baby's asleep--chain-smoking and coffee-chugging--out on the porch. I'll usually start the conversation with a button-pushing rant for my deep-thinking, artist-husband, who minored in sociology, to go off on. I'll say, "Why do the fast-food joints put the non-English-speaking workers on the business end of the drive-through speaker?" He'll launch into his fine-tuned speech about how assimilation into someone else's culture is bad, how America is not and shouldn't be a melting pot. "It's more like a salad bowl," he'll say, "where diverse cultures remain distinct unto themselves yet blend effectively into a rich and interesting whole society." Pompous, ain't he?

Still, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, an inherently stuffy group, has concocted something of a riotous tossed salad this weekend in a free series of indoor and outdoor concerts recognizing the contributions of minorities to classical music. The "Celebration of Combined Cultures" is the brainchild of Lynn Flint-Shaw, a DSO board member, who says, "Our festival concerts open the doors to new audiences, encouraging families to enjoy classical music and possibly inspiring children to pursue music, and at the very least, sparking an interest in classical music." Bet she majored in sociology.

For the last decade, the DSO has sponsored free concerts featuring African-American and Hispanic composers, guest conductors and performers as part of its community outreach program. This year, conductor Germán Gutiérrez will represent the Hispanic community. The Colombian native heads up Texas Christian University's Latin American Music Center. African-American maestro Vincent L. Danner, in his seventh season with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra where he is a resident conductor, will also conduct. Guest artists include 19-year-old Yale University student and music prodigy Patrice Jackson on cello and Argentinean vocal group Opus Cuatro. Musical selections range from one of three Duke Ellington compositions for his "Three Black Kings" work, titled "Martin Luther King"; mid-1930s black composer William Levi Dawson's last movement (Movement #4) from "Negro Folk Symphony"; Alberto Ginastera's "Obertra Para el Fausto Criolla"; and Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez's "Batuque."

The festival weekend begins with a concert Friday at 8 p.m. at the Meyerson Symphony Center, with music from both African-American and Hispanic composers. The guest conductors will repeat the performance Saturday at 6 p.m., again at the Meyerson. From 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, an outdoor family festival will be held in Annette Strauss Artist Square. Exhibits, art, dance performances, music and storytelling on the Square will focus on the richness of Dallas diversity.

"I am very proud to be part of an organization that is committed to celebrating the diversity of our city," Flint-Shaw says of the 10-year commitment of the DSO. "These festival concerts not only educate the community, they provide an opportunity to many people who may otherwise not come to Dallas Symphony concerts." She's hoping for another good turnout this year, and a smattering of every ethnic persuasion in the audience. It's her big idea. Bet she thought of it on a Sunday morning.