Saturday, June 13, 2020

Music Kitchen - Food for the Soul: In Memoriam George Floyd

Forgotten Voices
Song Cycle Commissionied by Music Kitchen 
With Support from Carnegie Hall
Celebrating 30,000 Homeless Shelter Clients,
100 Concerts
and The 15th Season
 ~ Featuring Comment Texts by Homeless Shelter Clients
Set By 15 Composers ~
Premiering One Song Each Month
for 15 Months in a Selected Shelter

Through May 2020
Like many around the world, I have watched in horror and dismay the murder of yet more unarmed African Americans, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.  Their names are only the most recent on a list going back generations in America and the senseless taking of their lives is part of a long history of systemic racism that this country has yet to fully address.  On personal level, the events of the last two weeks are simultaneously heartbreaking and very affirming as I have witnessed the groundswell of national and worldwide response that seems to finally declare enough.  I was proud to join the musical call to action by my friend and colleague Anthony McGill, principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic and posted the tribute video below on social media with the hashtag #TakeTwoKnees.  That effort has now been joined by hundreds if not thousands of musicians worldwide, from other members of the New York Philharmonic and Billy Hunter and Weston Sprott of the Metropolitan Opera, to Berlin Philharmonic Concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley, soloists Elena Urioste, Melissa White, Alisa Weilersten, Stewart Goodyear and many others.  I was also honored to join as a featured speaker and performer for the worldwide vigil event on June 3rd hosted by Democrats Abroad, initiated by my friend, Global Chair Julia Bryan, and attended by over 3,000 people from Fiji to Amsterdam, Japan to Australia. 

As an African American and as the founder of Music Kitchen – Food for the Soul, we know that Black Lives Matter.  We stand against racism and for the fair, respectful and just treatment of all of our fellow human beings, especially those who have been so egregiously harmed and systematically excluded from America’s promises.  Without action, those are just phrases.  Music Kitchen has been walking the walk and doing the work for 15 years.  I founded Music Kitchen as the pioneer program of its kind and I remember having to fight for the idea that the poorest among us deserve access to finest that the arts have to offer, along with our ticket-buying audiences.  I remember the early fights for funding where potential donors rejected and pushed back against the idea that musicians who play for such people should be paid at all.  It is easy for good people to look at the video of what happened to George Floyd and say that it is horrible.  But such events do not happen in a vacuum and the harder work is to look deeper.  They are fueled by the myriad decisions a society makes, from what schools deserve better funding to who gets the best medical care to who gets bank loans, who gets raises (or hired in the first place), who is placed in leadership roles with the support of the company being lead, what statues we erect in the town square, whose names we emblazon on our school buildings, who is celebrated in the curricula, who speaks up when injustice is on display.  In our beloved classical field, it comes also to questions of which artists get engaged, what music is played, who is conducting etc.  How we spend our budgets and our programming goes a long way in saying which lives matter, and not just through diversity programs which have limited shelf-life before going back to business as usual, but regular programming that is simply inclusive of the fullest array of talent.  Music Kitchen has never advertised itself as a diversity initiative, but if you look carefully at the artists we have engaged over 15 years, in addition to the people we reach, and now the artists and composers of the Forgotten Voices project, you will see a larger array of voices than are typically heard in any other arena.  If the groundswell is serious and this turning point is real, I hope we will see meaningful change.  If you are reading this message, you are part of the solution and we appreciate your support; Collectively we join together to use our time on this earth to make a positive impact on the world.  Many have asked me and others what they can do.  In this unprecedented time of awakening, I call upon each of us to see how we can do more, anywhere from within our own families to broader civic-minded action somewhere in our society.  Change begins with us. 

Thank you for your support of Music Kitchen – Food for the Soul.


Kelly Hall-Tompkins

Music Kitchen New York City - Photos by Jaime Yaela

Forgotten Voices World Premiere

Presented in Association with Carnegie Hall

Zankel Hall

 ~Coming Soon ~

We welcome your checks at the following address:
Music Kitchen - Food for the Soul
Attn: Kelly Hall-Tompkins
P.O. Box 907
New York, NY 10040
Thank you for your support of Music Kitchen -Food for the Soul

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