I played with Julie Leven on the very first Shelter Music Boston concert and have played almost every concert thereafter for the next five years. Before our first SMB concert, Julie Leven and I were both working on an organic vegetable farm in Lincoln, MA, when we weren’t busy performing in orchestras and chamber groups around Boston. While on the farm, picking fresh strawberries, washing huge mounds of kale, and pulling weeds, we started to talk about working on some kind of music project together. When Julie shared her idea with me about playing in homeless shelters, I was totally game.
Our first two back-to-back performances at the Kitty Dukakis Treatment Center (now closed) and the Shattuck Shelter (now run by Pine Street Inn) in Jamaica Plain were a total success. I had no idea what to expect at our first performance, but was pleasantly surprised that we received a standing ovation and cheers of delight. I figured that most of the people in the shelters would not know classical music or be somewhat bored by it, but the exact opposite happened. In every shelter in which we performed, I was struck by so many things: the kindness of the audience; their attention to detail; their inquisitiveness; their appreciation of the music and of our skill, expertise, and time.”
After this first concert I think both Julie and I thought that our success was beginners luck. We had no idea if we would get such a positive reaction the next time we played. To our surprise, the second concert was just as successful. And on and on it went, success after success. I am continually amazed by the power that the music has on the audience.
I have learned that these are not ‘homeless people’, but rather people who do not have a home at this time. They are hard working people who have, unfortunately, had a tough time in life and all are trying desperately to make life better. The music we are providing gives them a respite from the pain and struggle of their daily lives, gives them intellectual stimulation, some peace and soothing sounds, as well as shows them that we, the musicians, care and want to be there.
I believe very strongly that our society needs music and that there are abundant places and ways that classical music can be incorporated outside of the traditional concert hall. I have always had the desire to bring classical music into the fabric of our community and am so grateful to Julie for doing just that with SMB.
Inspired by the work with SMB and my passion for using music for social change, I created an event called Harmony & Hope: Responding to Violence with Music. This 12-hour series of live classical chamber music concerts is a massive response to a major crisis in our society. It will take place on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 from 9:00 AM-9:00 PM at the Arlington Street Church in Boston as a healing response to the increasing violence in our nation.
A minute of silent reflection will take place each hour on the hour at the beginning of each concert set. Music will be performed by string, woodwind, brass, vocal, and piano ensembles. Guests are invited to come and go throughout the day and to leave messages of hope on site, in writing or short video clips. It will be free and open to the public.
On display will be Allen M. Spivack’s sculpture, “Sandy Hook 2012.” Allen not only brought SMB to The Dimock Center, but is a great supporter of the SMB mission and work; so much so that he has joined the Shelter Music Boston Board of Directors.
Performing for guests in the shelters is always an amazing experience and lifts my spirits and reminds me, every time, of the power of music.