DSO Heroes Gala honors local couple

Chris Azzopardi
Special to The Detroit News

“Once a Rockette, always a Rockette,” says Marlene Boll, referring to her career more than 50 years ago as a precision dancer. So does that mean she’ll can-can yet again when she’s honored June 18 at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Heroes Gala with headlining Broadway superstar Megan Hilty?

“I don’t know about that!” she continues, chuckling. “We’ll let Ms. Hilty do that.”

Though her husband, John, vows that even a half-century later his wife can “still kick up to the ear,” the Bolls will not be providing the evening’s entertainment — instead, the Metro Detroit couple are being recognized for their commitment to enriching the lives of those who pursue the arts.

Upon hearing they were being named “heroes” by the DSO, Marlene Boll says they were both “surprised,” and also delighted.

“We were pleased that they picked us,” John Boll says.

The Bolls have been committed to the DSO for more than three decades. During that time, he transitioned from board member, a position he held beginning in 1994, to director emeritus, his role as of 2013.

“They are true friends of the DSO, true lovers of music, dance, and the arts, and true heroes in southeast Michigan,” says DSO president and CEO Anne Parsons.

How do you best recognize two local altruists? You go all out. Aside from the DSO’s request for guests to channel the Golden Age of Broadway — “sparkles recommended, glamour required” — the orchestra will perform Broadway selections with Megan Hilty, who recently scored a Tony nomination for her performance in “Noises Off.”

As a nod to Marlene Boll’s showbiz past, Hilty says her performance at the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center will include songs from her TV series “Smash,” various musicals she’s performed in, including “Wicked” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” as well as American Songbook standards off her new album, “Megan Hilty Live at the Café Carlyle.”

Proceeds from the gala will benefit the DSO’s longtime commitment to transforming young lives across Metro Detroit through music education, a cause that Hilty stands firmly behind.

“The lack of funding for the arts programs for our youth is a nationwide issue and one that I take very personally,” she says, noting that youth theater programs allowed her to develop a strong work ethic. “It also gave me a sense of purpose. Almost all of those programs that kept me busy — and out of trouble — are gone now due to lack of funding.”

Hilty’s advice to Detroit youth interested in pursuing the arts? “... Realize that we are all in this together and, while the spotlight may be on you, you are a small part of a very large puzzle that doesn’t work unless we’re doing it as a team.”

The Bolls also are firm believers in the power of youth arts programming. Since the early 1980s, supporting youth has been the key mission of The Boll Foundation. Marlene Boll says she and her husband’s involvement over the years has grown as they’ve witness firsthand the importance of music education.

“A lot of young people these days unfortunately don’t have a real good music background,” she says, “but you get a hold of some of them and they really have talent. You just love to see them bloom.”

Chris Azzopardi is a Canton-based freelance writer.

DSO’s Sixth Annual Heroes Gala

7 p.m. June 18

Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, 3711 Woodward, Detroit

Tickets: $19 to $68

(313) 576-5111