DCACC Announces "Founding Donor" Campaign

Merriweather Post Pavilion and Downtown Columbia are becoming a premier destination for arts and culture in the mid-Atlantic. With Soulful Symphony’s residency at Merriweather as the cultural centerpiece, the future starts now. And we need your help. Donate to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, as part of our “Founding Donor” drive and know that your support will go directly to growing world-class and accessible artistic, cultural, and community programs.

To be eligible for this special “Founding Donor” status and package of benefits, contributions must be received prior to October 1, 2019. Donors who contribute at the Choir-level or above will be included on a commemorative plaque to be installed at Merriweather Post Pavilion. All donors who contribute as part of this donation drive will be listed as a DCACC “Founding Donor” on DCACC’s website and in event programs. Donations to DCACC are tax-deductible but the value of any benefits received must be deducted for tax purposes; please consult your accountant or tax professional for advice.

Our “Founding Donor” drive includes many levels. Please visit our Founding Donor page to see the benefits package associated with each. You can donate online or mail at check to Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia MD 21044.


Soulful Symphony Announces Inaugural Season Performances Starting June 29

Tickets available to the General Public on Monday, May 20

Soulful Symphony today announced its inaugural three-show season, Soulful Summers, as Merriweather Post Pavilion’s resident symphony, beginning a new era for both the acclaimed orchestra and iconic music venue. 


Soulful Symphony takes the stage June 29 with #soulfulsetlist.  Continuing its mission of exploring the rich diversity of American Roots Music, Soulful Symphony captures the magic and wonder of one of the most iconic stages in the country with a mash-up of American anthems covering every conceivable style and genre - original orchestral arrangements, magnificent vocal performances and spectacular dancing. It’s the ultimate Remix. This is what makes Soulful Symphony unlike any orchestral ensemble in the world. 

“Our mission is to celebrate American music and expand audiences, and this season definitely has something for everyone. We want to be as comprehensive as possible as we create a hub of culture where patrons can enjoy a variety of programming. Programming that bridges the gap, that exist between high art and popular culture, that welcomes inclusivity and reflects the communities we serve.  It’s both entertaining and informative. When you leave a Soulful performance, patrons should have another perspective about the possibilities of greatness in their own life”, said Darin Atwater, Artistic Director for the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission. “With the history of Merriweather Post Pavilion and its central location in the cultural geography of the Baltimore/Washington DC region, this residency is more like a homecoming for the orchestra and our music.” 

This inaugural seasonwill include three performances at the famed amphitheater—#soulfulsetlist on June 29, Slangon July 28, and Under an Open Heaven on September 14. Season passes and tickets to individual shows go on sale to the general public on Monday, May 20, at ticketmaster.com.

“Soulful is a change-generator for music, and its inaugural season at Merriweather will help us understand and appreciate music in exciting new ways,” said Ian Kennedy, Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission.  “Creating music together, audience members and musicians, in real time at a live performance is a profound and unifying experience, and it is one that is needed more than ever. Soulful is a symphony with a chair for everyone.” 

As part of the lead up to #Soulfulsetlist, fans will be able to vote on songs to be included in the #Soulfulsetlist program, taking Soulful’s radically inclusive approach to new levels. More details will be announced soon about the fan voting component, but the message is clear: #Soulfulsetlisthas something for everyone.  

The second performance entitled Slang will be held on July 28.  Amosaic of American composers in large form orchestral works from America’s musical soil takes center stage in this show. Slangis an exploration of modern interpretations of classical music by groundbreaking and visionary composers. The program will include the world premiere of Slang, anew work by Atwater, excerpts from Atwater’s South Side, Symphonic Dances, along with iconic works by George Gershwin, Andre Previn, ending the evening with a soulful interpretation of The American Songbook. 

Prior to the evening program, there will be a family-friendly Soulful Sound Park. Soulful Symphony will bring Merriweather to life in exciting new ways, welcoming kids and adults alike to hear stories with orchestra as Soulful transports eyes and ears to a magical submersion of costumes, song and dance. 

In its third performance, Under an Open Heaven on Sept. 14, Soulful gives new life to Columbia, Maryland, founder James Rouse’s vision to bring together faith congregations from around the community for an evening of inspiration and hope. Spirituality and Culture are explored - from Vedic mantras to the Islamic Call to Prayer. Hebrew Psalms to Gregorian chant, devotional Bhajans to Bach Chorales, traditional hymns to Gospel music. 

On March 11, the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, along with Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, announced that Merriweather Post Pavilion would be home to Soulful Symphony, a world-class, 21st century orchestra, fulfilling the cultural promise of Merriweather set forth by Rouse.  

Click here for Summer with Soulful season passes.

Click here for tickets to #soulfulsetlist.

Click here for tickets to Slang.

Click here for tickets to Under an Open Heaven.

The Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission is dedicated to the expansion and enhancement of artistic, cultural, civic, and educational programming in and around Merriweather Post Pavilion. Founded in 2013, the Commission is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that owns Merriweather Post Pavilion and is working to bolster the venue’s cultural significance throughout the region. The Commission envisions Downtown Columbia as a premier destination for world-class, ground-breaking arts, culture, and entertainment in the mid-Atlantic and is bringing this vision to life through bold programs and collaborative partnerships.

About Soulful Symphony
Soulful Symphonyhas become the benchmark for innovation and diversity. It has broadened the audiences engaging in music in the concert hall, literally redefining the symphony experience all while contributing to the canon of American Roots music. The result is a uniquely American orchestra of national stature. Founded in 2000, Soulful Symphony is transforming music as we know it. This disruptive force is bringing to life the music that’s been nested in America’s soil-everything from gospel to jazz to hip-hop to spiritual to blues and country - literally reinventing the symphony orchestra in Americawith performances that leave audiences wanting more of its distinctly American sound. 

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.