Music Alumnus Cofounds Nonprofit

Damien Crutcher’s "Crescendo Detroit" brings arts programming to kids in the Detroit community.

Damien Crutcher built his program around offering after school music programming to Detroit community students who do not have arts education available from their public school.

At the end of the day, Damien Crutcher says he feels proud knowing he can make a difference in kids’ lives by giving them the ability to imagine life outside their block. He is doing that through his very own nonprofit that brings quality arts programming to kids in Detroit.

As the CEO and cofounder of Crescendo Detroit, the alum of the MSU College of Music provides intensive instruction and training in performance-based music programs in an after school setting. Crescendo Detroit, he says, builds character and talent in kids using the arts, and provides programming inspired by El Sistema—a voluntary music education program in Venezuela founded in 1975. Launched in 2013, Crescendo Detroit is the first El Sistema inspired program in Detroit, and is part of the El Sistema global network.

A Detroit native and graduate of Detroit Public Schools, Crutcher earned his bachelor’s in music education from MSU in 1990. He went on to build a successful career as a music educator and conductor, then wanted to help change the lives of young people in his hometown.

“I felt it was time to make a difference in the city that I live in and have all my life,” he said. “We are currently doing what nonprofits must do: increase donor base, readjust business plans, get the word out, and make sure we are impacting the kids in the Dexter Davison neighborhood in Detroit.”

VIDEO: Crescendo Detorit
Source: Mitch Albom’s “Heart of Detroit.” MitchAlbom.comA weekly public service initiative on Detroit’s Local 4 News.


Crutcher said his time at MSU helped him grow both as a person and as a musician. He related how his mother passed away during his first semester and how his professors went out of their way to help him cope with the loss.

That experience taught me how to persevere through difficult times,” he said. “My musical training was exceptional and that has always kept me on the forefront of my profession.”

Crescendo Detroit reflects Crutcher’s belief that 21st century musicians should be excellent music makers as well as caring individuals who can build long-lasting relationships.

“We must also have the insight to know we cannot do everything ourselves,” he said. “My advice to anyone is to remember that relationships are key.”

Also see the College of Music’s Running Start Spotlight. For more alumni interviews.

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