Updated: Feb 19, 2019
Hosted by Urban Voices Project (www.urbanvoicesproject.org), street choir directors, administrators, and board members from around the nation gathered in Los Angeles, CA and remotely across the country from Thursday, January 31 to Saturday, February 2 to share experiences, gather best practices, sing together, tour Skid Row, and create a new organization for a group that had been, until recently, called "Street Choir Directors Group".
Formed in January 2018, the Street Choir Directors first annual conference took place in Dallas, TX and was hosted by The Dallas Street Choir (www.dallasstreetchoir.org) under the direction of Dr. Jonathan Palant. This year, membership in the group has increased as new music programs continue to form across the country. The choirs represented in this year's conference were:
Urban Voices Project (Los Angeles, California) Dallas Street Choir (Dallas, TX) Harmony, Hope & Healing (Chicago, IL) The Norfolk Street Choir (Norfolk VA) Matthew's Voices (Indianapolis, IN) Atlanta Homeward Choir (Atlanta, GA) Voices Rise: A Baltimore Choir of Hope (Baltimore, MD) Voices of Our City Choir (San Diego, CA) San Diego Street Choir (San Diego, CA) Santa Fe Interfaith Shelter Choir (Santa Fe, NM)
While in Los Angeles, conference participants spent time in two-day intensive sessions at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, home to the LA Phil, LA Opera, and Los Angeles Master Chorale, that covered, "Organization Structure", "Ensemble Data", "Growth: Recruitment and Relationships", and "Music in Health".
Special guests included, Vijay Gupta, Founder of the Los Angeles Street Symphony (www.streetsymphony.org) and Hayk Makhmuryan, Founder of Studio 526 (www.thepeopleconcern.org/studio-526.php).
Critical to this year's conference was the collective desire to formalize the organization by creating a name, mission statement, and naming officers. National Alliance for Music in Vulnerable Communities (NAMVC) with a mission to support music programs serving vulnerable communities through networking, education, and advocacy was formed.
Newly appointed president of NAMVC, Dr. Jonathan Palant said, "Representatives from across the country descended on Los Angeles with a common purpose - to birth a new organization whose sole purpose is to support those making music in vulnerable communities. The byproduct was a renewed sense of enthusiasm and camaraderie among those who witnessed and participated in this important work."
A walk with Christopher Mack, co-founder of Urban Voices Project, through Skid Row culminated Friday's experience. As participants spent time side-by-side with Christopher, he described the volatility of the neighborhood, the services provided, and stories of hope. As Christopher was walking through the streets of Skid Row, which cover 4 square miles and where 8,000 plus people who are experiencing homelessness stay, he saw people that he was in relationship with. He greeted them, offered a hug or a handshake and a kind word. Stops included, Studio 526, where equitable access to arts and cultural spaces is essential for all people and communities, and Wesley Health Center (http://jwchinstitute.org/primary-medical-care/cch-downtown/), a neighborhood clinic providing care for people in the Skid Row community.
Urban Voices Project, directed by co-founder Leeav Sofer, held a special rehearsal with conference participants and Urban Voices Project members on Friday afternoon at Wesley Health Center. The room was electric from the energy of song, percussion, dance, camaraderie, and joy. The highlight of this rehearsal was found in story sharing, a doctor and patient/Urban Voices Project member duet, and prompting questions that resulted in new song improvisations.
NAMVC will hold its third annual conference January 23-26, 2020 in Atlanta. The host choir is the Atlanta Homeward Choir (www.atlantahomewardchoir.org) under the direction of Mr. Donal Noonan. More information will follow by searching @musicinvulnerablecommunities on Facebook.