MUSIC FOR SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION
For many years I’ve been a strong believer in the transformative power of music and the arts. One moment more than any other brought that home to me. In my early 20’s I was playing with the New World Symphony in Miami and I visited the WOW center (for adults with developmental disabilities.)
At the WOW center I took my instrument out of my case and played a note or two just to warm up and to my surprise I got a round of applause! I played a couple more notes and was greeted with so much joy, cheers and applause from my audience that I couldn’t believe it. At the end of the performance I and the other musicians were treated to one of the most enthusiastic responses of our careers.
This was a life changing moment for me. It made me realize how privileged I am and that it is a gift to be able to reach people with music. I began to see how this connection with non-traditional audiences, and specifically underserved communities is not just some sort of civic duty, it can actually feed the artist in a different way to the traditional concert hall.
It’s a symbiotic relationship as the joy you bring to others who otherwise wouldn’t experience music is actually returned to you as artistic nourishment and it is a never-ending circle. Playing for underserved audiences reminds us what are artistry can do and feeds our souls as musicians.
I strongly believe that all performers should incorporate some community performance and engagement into their career portfolio. Not only to give back to your community and less privileged members of society but also for the reward of growing as an artist and a human being. As artists it serves to remind us that communication is key and what could be more nourishing?
Performing for audiences who are underserved such as retirement communities, juvenile
homes or jails has led to some of the most fulfilling musical experiences I have experienced.
Upon leaving the New World Symphony I was commissioned by the
John S. & James L. Knight Foundation to write a feasibility study for a music education
program in Miami, Florida. The feasibility study eventually grew into the Miami Music Project
which I co-founded along with conductor James Judd.
The feasibility study led to us receiving a $1million dollar grant from the Knight Foundation
and I served as the first Executive Director of the Miami Music Project helping to bring
classical music to thousands of underserved Miami-Dade public school students.
MMP is now a thriving Miami Arts cultural institution and you can
download the original feasibility study that became the blueprint for
the Miami Music Project here.
In 2010 I was awarded a fellowship in New York City to join Ensemble ACJW a fellowship of Carnegie Hall & the Juilliard school. I continued to bring classical music to underserved populations and presented workshops and interactive performances in an array of New York City public schools.
Working with high school students to explore their creativity through
the arts can empower them to achieve in all areas of their life. I have
witnessed students from different ethnic & social backgrounds 4 years
apart in age who wouldn’t even look at each other in the hallway of an
inner city Bronx high school. But put them in a ensemble and one
student will help the other with the fingering on their alto sax or
another will be wowed by someones skill at playing a drum set.
Ensemble’s build self-esteem and playing an instrument shows young
people that they can have control over the outcomes in their lives by
dedicating themselves to a discipline.
My good friend Nathan Schram came to me in 2012 and said that he wanted to create a program that bought music to inmates in US prisons. I thought it would be an incredible idea and we set about drafting a proposal for a program that has blossomed this day into Musicambia. Using music for social change in incarcerated communities, our flagship program is at Sing Sing prison in upstate New York and we are in the midst of a national expansion.
I am honored to serve on the board of this incredible organization that uses the power of music to build supportive communities where incarcerated individuals can build human connections, engage in learning and rebuild their lives. Through performance and creation, participants develop self-confidence, positive self-image, and communication skills. By sharing their skills, musicians grow as teachers and citizens committed to humanizing our justice system.
"It’s a symbiotic relationship as the joy you bring to others who otherwise wouldn’t experience music is actually returned to you as artistic nourishment and it is a never-ending circle. Playing for underserved audiences reminds us what are artistry can do and feeds our souls as musicians."
WOW Center Miami
"I strongly believe that all performers should incorporate some community performance and engagement into their career portfolio. Not only to give back to your community but also for the reward of growing as an artist and a human being."