Merriweather Post Pavilion’s physical makeover will be complemented by a significant program enhancement this spring when Soulful Symphony begins tenancy as the facility’s first resident orchestra.

“We are building on a decades-old idea whose time has finally come,” said Ian Kennedy, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission that owns Merriweather. “We are incredibly excited to work toward fulfilling the cultural promise of Merriweather by expanding its role [as] home to a world-class, 21st century orchestra.”

Founded nearly 20 years ago, Soulful Symphony is renowned for performances that celebrate America’s diverse musical and cultural history. The orchestra comprises 85 predominantly African-American and Latino musicians and vocalists, and has previously enjoyed residencies with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore’s Hippodrome.

“We want to be as comprehensive as possible with our programming,” said Soulful Symphony Director Darin Atwater. “We want to bring everyone together, true to our motto, taking an entire culture and setting it to music.”

Soulful Symphony’s commitment to the community will include a partnership with the Howard County Public School System along with a groundbreaking Culture Behind Bars initiative with the Maryland Correctional Institute, Atwater said.

County Executive Calvin Ball termed the announcement an opportunity to “revel in [Columbia’s] foundation of diversity and inclusion” and also advance what he called “the democratization of the arts,” helping to make access to arts and culture more affordable and accessible for the entire community. “[We’re] making sure that the things that help life be worthwhile are not just tolerated, but celebrated.”