This is the third in a series of posts about the intersection of music and society, in support of The Dream Unfinished: A Symphonic Benefit for Civil Rights. So far, we’ve learned about Karim Wasfi, a cellist who plays at Iraq bombsites; and musical protesters in St. Louis who brought their cause to the concert hall.
In 2013, the Boston Public Health Commission recorded a nearly 4% increase in homelessness from the preceding year, with 7,255 homeless men, women, and children as compared to 6,992 in 2012. The Commission noted that, while the number of homeless adults living on Boston streets remained lower than in many other major cities, 2013 also saw an almost 6% rise in family homelessness and a 4.3% increase in the number of homeless children.
Homelessness is a difficult subject — emotionally taxing, certainly, but also an issue that is deeply nuanced: tied to income inequality, poverty, crime, the economic climate, systemic racial injustice, public education, mental health resources, drug regulation, housing policy, government welfare, LGBTQ+ discrimination (as of 2009, 20% of homeless youth were LGBTQ+), domestic violence, law enforcement and homelessness criminalization, military spending and veterans’ affairs…
Boston is fortunate to have a broad network of support for the homeless population, from shelters, to food banks, to mentoring programs, to the organization that is the focus of today’s Movers, Shakers, and Music-Makers: Shelter Music Boston.
Founder Julie Leven established Shelter Music Boston in 2010 “to create a professionally staffed social service organization dedicated to providing an immediate positive impact with classical music performances in environments of great need,” according to her bio on the Shelter Music Boston website.
As this story from WGBH asks, “The bunks…will fill up with people seeking food, warmth, a roof over their heads. They’re here for the basics. So why give them Beethoven?”
Leven’s bold answer: “Why not?”
The organization’s mission statement is straightforward:
Shelter Music Boston presents classical chamber music concerts, of the highest artistic standards, in homeless shelters and other sheltering environments. Our goal is to promote community, creative interaction, respect, and therapeutic benefit. We believe all people deserve access to the dignity, creativity, and passion of classical music whether or not they have a home.
Is Shelter Music Boston going to eradicate Boston homelessness? Probably not. But the organization is unique in fostering an environment of respect, empathy, dignity, and artistry for a community of people who, due to the aforementioned circumstances largely beyond their control, may feel helpless, hopeless, or stuck. Combined with other important resources — food, shelter, and clothing at the most fundamental level — Leven’s concerts have the potential to empower and support a sector of society who deserve beauty and art and compassion in their lives just as much as any other citizen, but for whom classical music seems not only inaccessible, but an entirely unattainable luxury. As the organization’s tagline reads:
Just as others work to shelter and feed homeless citizens, Shelter Music Boston feeds their souls.
- ‘Why Not Classical Music In The Homeless Shelter?’ (WGBH)
- Shelter Music Boston Brings Classical Music to Homeless Shelters (Boston Magazine)
- Bringing Classical Music To Those Who Rarely Hear It: The Homeless (WBUR)
- City of Boston 34th Annual Homeless Census (Boston Public Health Commission)
The Dream Unfinished: A Symphonic Benefit for Civil Rights
July 17 | 7:30 pm | Centennial Memorial Temple, New York City, USA
- Website: thedreamunfinished.org
- CrowdRise campaign: The Dream Unfinished: A Symphonic Benefit for Civil Rights
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: The Dream Unfinished
- Twitter: @dreamunfinished