Julie Leven on the origins of Shelter Music Boston
"Since I first picked up the violin as a nine-year old, the instrument has been my calling: the beauty, emotional expressiveness, and depth of the music are infinitely rewarding. I have played professionally for over 35 years in the great concert halls of the world and on 30 commercial recordings.
In December 2009 I read in the New York Times about violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins, who plays in homeless shelters in Manhattan. Immediately I realized that we need this in Boston; that I would create a sustainable nonprofit organization to be staffed by professional musicians who would deliver concerts as a social service. Soon, I had lined up concerts, two per month, at the Shattuck Shelter and Kitty Dukakis Treatment Center in Jamaica Plain, MA.
The first concerts were a revelation: never had I experienced such a level of appreciation for my art from an audience. Performing in environments of great need is a natural evolution of the role classical music should fill in modern society. To have a positive impact on the life of a homeless individual by playing my violin is to honor classical music and the dignity of all people."
SMB Founder Julie Leven with audience members following a performance at Pine Street Inn-Shattuck Shelter Photo Credit: Steve Olimpio
Milestones on our Journey
May 2010: First concerts at Kitty Dukakis Treatment Center and Shattuck Shelter.
May 2011: Marked the first year anniversary of Shelter Music Boston concerts.
October 2011: Shelter Music Boston musicians commenced a new shelter concert series at Rosie's Place, made possible by the first foundation to invest in our work: the PatsyLu Fund for Women's Projects, of the Open Meadows Foundation.
March 2012: Concerts commence at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program and Pine Street Inn.
May 2012: First concerts at Women's Residential Treatment Program at Dimock Center.
December 2012: Shelter Music Boston was selected by the Social Innovation Forum of Root Cause as their first-ever Classical Music Social Innovator.
May, 2013: Julie Leven introduced Shelter Music Boston to the audience at the Social Innovation Forum Showcase ~ the first SIF Showcase presentation ever to include live classical music.
June 2013: Concerts start at the Crittenton Women's Union Hastings House ~ the first Shelter Music Boston concerts for women with young children.
November 2014: The Massachusetts House of Representatives recognized Shelter Music Boston for "concerts that bring the arts, dignity, and respect to homeless men and women."
During 2015: welcomed to the rosters of the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Boston Cultural Council, and performed concerts at Women's Lunch Place. We performed our 250th shelter concert!
In 2016: expanded service to Lifebridge of Salem, providing the North Shore of Boston with shelter concerts.
In 2017: welcomed to the roster of the National Endowment for the Arts, served the Lowell Transitional Living Center and added concerts at the Men's Stabilization Program of Pine Street Inn.
In 2018: named our concert series for women in recovery at the Dimock Center the Ilene Beal Concerts for Women in recognition of a $250,000 grant from the Beal Charitable Foundation. Piloted concerts for homeless children in partnership with The Boston Philharmonic and the Malden-based organization, Housing Families.
In 2019: performed our 500th concert. Gave the world premiere performances of the first-ever operatic work about African American composer Florence Price.
In 2020: virtual programming enabled SMB to create new partnerships with more than twenty organizations across Greater Boston.
In 2021: Indigenous composers' music presented to SMB audiences virtually and live via our Voices From The Landseries.
In 2022: Return to Live concerts! Performances ofVoices of Hope, a series of short musical compositions based upon poems written by individuals experiencing homelessness in Boston, set to music by 7 composers, and performed by Shelter Music Boston musicians.