Where can you find 50,000 homeless people on the streets any night of the week exposed to all the elements as well as human brutality – Skid Row, Los Angeles, U.S.!
We don’t hear about them often in the mainstream press, as many of us manage to maintain a certain image of America in our minds as thousands become unemployed, homeless, are falsely imprisoned (50% of whom which are African-American) on a daily basis.
But there you have it, Skid Row, Los Angeles, where Robert Gupta’s Street Symphony has been operating reminding us that life is more than just bread and butter.
The aim is to create the therapeutic experience of listening to classical music live to the destitute who are mentally ill!
May 16, 2012, in the center of Skid Row is the Mental Health Center, the exterior of which twines rusty coils of razor wire. In the make shift auditorium set up in the basement lined with 30 waiting room chairs, the attendees were not uniformly dressed to the standards of any opera house. Instead these attendees were wearing jeans, sweatpants and baseall caps. These attendees with faces hardened by life do not have homes to go to – some are addicts, and some are seriously mentally ill.
For a moment something ‘other’ entered their lives, gained their full attention mind, body and soul. Transfixed to the violinist who passionately conjures up musical notes with his bow bringing forth the Boccherini Duo for Violin and Cello as if calling forth a memory.
“It takes me away from the situation,” adding, “I’m not out there seeing the chaos that I live around. Here, I’m listening to something that soothes my spirit, ” said one member of Skid Row, Diana Dow to College News.
Gupta’s inspiration for Street Symphony began in 2008 when he met Nathaniel Ayers, an African American resident of the Men’s Project at Skids Row. Ayers, a talented and Juilliard-educated double bass player found himself homeless due to severe mental illness. Gupta and Ayers had long discussions about the music of Schumann and Beethoven, which led to Gupta giving Ayers violin lessons. However, during one of those lessons, Gupta witnessed firsthand the levity of Ayer’s illness, diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia. As Ayers went into a manic episode, Gupta resorted to the only means he had, his violin. As Gupta played, Ayers muttered less, and calmed down enough to start playing with Gupta. It was then Gupta questioned if music could have the same effect on others.
Only 24 years old, the American born Bangladeshi Robert Vijay Gupta has used the gifts that has been bequeathed to him, and honored them. Fluent in 3 languages, Gupta has a Master’s degree in Music from Yale University, a Bachelor’s degree in biology from Marist College, and became a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in June 2007 when he was only 19. He has performed as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Bombay Symphony Orchestra.
“My challenge has been to go into these places where there is no access to music,” Gupta told GOOD News
“In these spaced the music takes on a new meaning.” Barriers come down. Veterans who suffer from PTSD and appear “glazed over” begin to connect emotionally with the music. “I feel like we’re doing something profoundly important, profoundly beautiful, and profoundly therapeutic as well.”
Gupta has held 17 street symphony concerts since Street Synphony was officially established in 2011. The team of socially conscious musicians and board members consists of:
- Co-founder, Adrian Hong, a human rights activist focused on North Korean liberty
- Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist interested in the therapeutic affects of music
- Co-founder, Adam Crane vice president for External Affairs of the St. Louis Symphony
- Artistic advisor, Yana Reznik
- Community Programs Coordinator, Zachary Dellinger
- Clarinet, Benjamin Lulich
- Viola, Carrie Dennis
- Violin, Jin-Shan Dai
- Violin, Mitchell Newman
- Cello, Daniel Rothmuller
- Cello, Barry Gold
- Oboe, Aaron Hill
“Street Symphony is an ensemble of musical activists – socially conscious artists dedicated to delivering the tremendous therapeutic power of live classical music to mentally ill individuals living in deeply impoverished, disenfranchised communities in Los Angeles. To these individuals living in the dehumanizing conditions of homelessness and incarceration, the committed musicians of Street Symphony restore hope and humanity through the transcendent powers of great music – they remind these audiences that they still have the capacity to experience something beautiful, and that they carry that very spark of beauty – of creativity and connectedness, empathy and humanity – of true healing – within their very selves.” Street Symphony
In these times now, more than ever, the role of musicians and artists needs to be redirected towards the original purpose of music, to enlighten, inform and elucidate, inspire, transform, transcend and heal!
“Street Symphony Brings Some of the World’s Greatest Musicians to Skid Row.” http://www.good.is/post/street-symphony-brings-some-of-the-world-s-greatest-musicians-to-skid-row/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+good%2Flbvp+%28GOOD+Main+RSS+Feed%29