The Violin Channel recently caught up with Kate Sheeran, Executive Director of the Kaufman Music Center, and Jay Dweck, Adviser to the Alphadyne Foundation, to discuss their new project aimed at safely bringing live music back to the streets of New York City.
Kate, tell us about the new Musical Storefronts project? What is your vision behind this project?
Musical Storefronts is our way of bringing live music back to New York City in a safe, Covid-19 aware way. Over the course of the next two months, we will hear 60 different concerts performed by 102 musicians ranging from classical soloists, chamber musicians, and opera singers, to jazz musicians and Broadway stars.
Musical Storefronts brings joy to our city when we need it most and employs professional artists whose careers have been severely impacted by the closing of venues due to the pandemic. Since last March, all of us at Kaufman Music Center have been determined to keep the music going for our 3,000 students and as many professional artists as we can.
Thanks to the support of our community, we have done so through a combination of remote and hybrid learning, filmed concerts, and even outdoor performances. When Jay Dweck approached us about his idea for Musical Storefronts, I immediately saw it as a perfect fit for us, and we have been thrilled to partner with Jay and the Alphadyne Foundation to bring it to life.
Jay, how did you come up with this idea?
As part of my role advising the Alphadyne Foundation on Performing Arts, I was speaking with a colleague, Caitlin Tully, who networks with many young professional musicians in the classical music world. We were discussing potential projects that could help musicians devastated by the cancellation of live performances, and she mentioned that a friend of hers, Michelle Ross, had been involved in a project where a musician played Bach in a storefront.
The light bulb immediately went off! Due to the pandemic, the city is rife with vacant stores. What if we acquired some of these spaces, then hired musicians to perform in the windows of those stores, while piping amplified music to the street? Those walking by attracted to the music, would stop and listen before proceeding on their way. Musical Storefronts was born!
Of course, there were several details to work out. How would all of the logistics work? How do we find musicians? How much do we pay the musicians? How do we control the size of the audience to maintain social distancing? And, of course, who could we partner with to turn this vision into a reality? Enter Kaufman Music Center.
Kate, which artists can we expect to hear as part of the project? And where will you be hosting it?
The artistic range, depth, and talent on display at the storefront is truly stunning. The musicians you see performing represent the artistic engine of New York City. Some may be names that are familiar to audiences, and others are from ensembles and settings like theaters, jazz clubs, and opera houses.
To give you just a small sample, we will have Gil Shaham, Adele Anthony, Jessie Montgomery, Eleonore Oppenheim, Terrence Wilson, Attacca Quartet, Chrystal E. Williams, Kobi Malkin, PUBLIQuartet, Caroline Shaw, Orli Shaham, Keiko Tokunaga, Sean Lee, Timo Andres, String Noise, Matthew Lipman, Yi-Fang Huang, Conrad Tao, Randall Goosby, Jeff Kready, and Tamar Greene.
As a health and safety precaution to prevent crowding, we do not specifically announce the location. The program and schedules are only announced on the day of the show. But I can tell you that if you’re near Columbus Circle during lunchtime or early evenings most days of the week, the music won’t be hard to find!
Jay, why did Alphadyne Foundation decide to support this amazing project?
One of the privileges of being on the advisory board… only kidding! This project fits perfectly with the mission of the Alphadyne Foundation, which is to support the hard-hit performing arts sector, and more generally, the New York City community in the wake of the pandemic crisis.
The Foundation recognized that Musical Storefronts is a platform that could easily be extended to include other performing arts, such as dance and theater. Everyone was also pleased with the efficiency of the project, as nearly 90% of the budget goes to performing artists and personnel (e.g., sound engineers) directly involved with the performances.
Jay, what is the Alphadyne Foundation’s mission during these troubling times for the arts?
The Foundation’s current focus is to provide immediate financial aid to organizations serving vulnerable New Yorkers in the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic and to support innovative opportunities in the Performing Arts sector.
Kate, can you tell us more about the performance format and the safety measures implied?
The musicians are inside of the storefront, behind glass in small groups, while observing strict health and safety protocols. Our team has put together a fantastic sound system that amplifies their music to the street for passers-by. The first time I walked up to hear the music, it took my breath away, and I love watching people discover the music, in the same way, every day as they walk past.
The sound engineers and house management team from our usual venue, Merkin Hall, all work very smoothly to ensure that both artists and listeners have a safe and happy experience. We are grateful to Milstein Properties for donating space to us, and we are working closely with the building management team to continue to observe optimum safety conditions for all.
Kate, if we want to hear some of the performances, how can we go about this?
Once New Yorkers discover this location on the Upper West Side, marked by our beautiful piano on loan from Steinway & Sons, they will see a QR code on the window that links to our webpage where the program for the day will be announced. It’s a little bit of a musical scavenger hunt, but I know that everyone who finds it will leave with a warmed heart (and cold toes!).