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.