Soulful Symphony is Home at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Columbia, MD. – Merriweather Post Pavilion, one of America’s great amphitheaters and host to the country’s top musical talent, is set to be home to Soulful Symphony, a visionary orchestra that celebrates, elevates, and reimagines American music and culture. 

The announcement came today at the backstage of the famed amphitheater by Howard County Executive Calvin Ball; Ian Kennedy, Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission; and Darin Atwater, Director of Soulful Symphony and new Artistic Director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission.

Atwater composed and played an original piece, the First Note, for today’s announcement.

“Howard County, Columbia and Merriweather Post Pavilion will always be a place of inclusion where culture and commerce come together and thrive,” said Ball. “I am proud of our commitment to economic development and the arts. Soulful Symphony is a perfect example of that synergy.”

“Merriweather Post Pavilion is a place where we come to escape the trials of daily life—to sing and dance and connect through the shared experience of of live music—and with Soulful Symphony, we’re opening the venue to new audiences and music,” Kennedy said.  “Born in the new city of Columbia, the Commission is guided by the core, timeless values of this city’s founding—inclusion, opportunity, and optimism—and these values and our ambitious vision for Merriweather led us right to Soulful.”

“Soulful Symphony is reimagining what’s possible in a modern orchestra.  From the First Note our work is to proclaim a distinctive American style that celebrates America’s multifaceted population with a special emphasis on the African American experience. We are Disruptive. Global. Local. Colorful. Mobile. Social. American. We are Soulful. A national symphony for the Next America. We are taking it to 11 with world-class experiences at America’s top amphitheater,” Atwater said.  

Soulful Symphony has been performing for audiences for nearly 20 years.  The ensemble is made up of nearly 75 predominantly African American and Hispanic musicians.  As its director and conductor, Atwater blends American pop, soul, Hip Hop, jazz, classical, and gospel music into award-winning, new and uniquely American works of art.  The musicians come from across the country to perform with Atwater, one of the most respected artists in the country.

“I have had the privilege of working with Darin Atwater for a number of years and Darin’s unique artistic vision and the powerful performances by Soulful Symphony are reimagining what today’s American orchestra can look, feel, and sound like,” said Toby Bumenthal, Vice President of Artistic Planning & Chief Innovation Officer at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, who attended the announcement.  “As a composer and leader, Darin’s work is not only timely and necessary, but has brought forth a fresh modern approach to a very traditional format – diversifying and building new audiences and musicians alike."

Atwater’s latest original composition, South Side, Symphonic Dances, was commissioned by the Mann Center, where it premiered to great acclaim last summer with the Philadelphia Orchestra. As part of Soulful’s Merriweather residency, new pieces by Atwater will be commissioned and premiered, in addition to the focus on the canon of American music. 

Merriweather Post Pavilion was built in 1967, designed to be the home of world class arts and programming while serving as a beacon for the new city of Columbia’s inclusive and progressive community vision. 

In 2016, ownership of Merriweather Post Pavilion was transferred to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, a not-for-profit community organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing this celebrated venue’s cultural significance and realizing its artistic ambition.

2018 Annual Report

The Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission today released a report detailing its activities during 2018. Some of the highlights include completing a roof reconstruction following a catastrophic collapse last January; hosting another successful series of outdoor movie nights; and signing a collaboration agreement with the Columbia Festival of the Arts. There was also a considerable amount of behind-the-scenes work that we can’t talk about yet.

However, the year ahead promises many more exciting developments. Stay tuned! But for now, catch up on everything that went down, and up, in 2018.

New Collaboration Effort to Expand Arts Programming

New Collaboration Effort to Expand Arts Programming

The Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission (DCACC) and the Columbia Festival of the Arts (CFA) yesterday announced a new collaboration effort to expand artistic, cultural, and community programming at Merriweather Post Pavilion and other venues throughout Columbia. 

“Collaboration is critical to realizing our ambitious vision of making Downtown Columbia the premier destination for arts and culture in Maryland,” said Deborah Ellinghaus, chair of the board of directors for the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission. “We are excited to be formally working with the Festival and its staff to bring this shared vision to life.”

Raise the Roof Campaign 2018

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The last time Merriweather faced such a perilous predicament, a group of young rabble-rousers from Columbia made t-shirts and started a movement to save our cherished amphitheater.

Much has changed in the nearly fifteen years since those green “Save Merriweather” t-shirts debuted: Merriweather’s cultural significance and importance to the region is widely known and appreciated; its viability as a world-class concert venue is proven; its long-overdue renovations are underway; and it now belongs to a community-based non-profit organization, the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, an organization connected by a common thread to that original movement.

Merriweather is also—for the time being—without its iconic roof.

The good news is that the roof is being rebuilt and will be ready for concerts this season, but for Merriweather’s fans, seeing the crumpled roof lying on the ground was a reminder of the days when its future was uncertain.

The Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission is an organization comprised of people with different backgrounds and areas of expertise, but we all share one thing: a love of Merriweather Post Pavilion.

And it is our mission to continue to help this beloved amphitheater thrive—whether by helping oversee renovations and reconstruction, working with the venue’s operator to ensure every guest has a wonderful experience here, or developing programs and partnerships to realize our ambitious vision for Merriweather to be the premier destination for arts, culture, and community events in the Mid-Atlantic.

While workers build the replacement roof, we are working toward this vision by bringing new events, performers, and guests to this acclaimed amphitheater. We started small with a series of movie nights last year, and our plans for 2018 and beyond are even bigger.

But we need your help. And since t-shirts helped launch a movement 15 years ago that eventually led to the creation of our organization, we’re using t-shirts to commemorate the launch of this new movement.

We are running a “Raise the Roof” fundraising campaign for the next several weeks. If you donate at least $30 to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission by March 14th, we’ll send you a free “Save Merriweather 2018” t-shirt (valued at approximately $10; adult and youth sizes available) inspired by those original shirts from many years ago.

You can order through this form on our website. If you would like multiple shirts, please contact us directly at This campaign only runs until March 14th, so don’t miss your chance to help us “raise the roof” and so much more!

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