Urban Voices Project brings the healing power of music directly to individuals disenfranchised by homelessness, mental health issues, and unemployment. Community singing and music education combine to provide practical opportunities for individuals to transcend their current circumstances and participate in a creative program of positive change. Composed of artists and performers from the Skid Row neighborhood in Downtown Los Angeles, this project is presented by The Colburn School and John Wesley Health Centers (JWCH Institute) to bring music, health & well-being, and community to one of the largest homeless neighborhood in the United States. The Urban Voices Project: A Skid Row Choir serves as a “bridge” to the Wesley’s health and wellness services for our homeless. Through music education, musical workshops, and a performing ensemble, the Urban Voices Project continues to share music and its healing power with many individuals and audiences inside and outside the neighborhood of Skid Row. Colburn School teaching artist, Leeav Sofer, directs the project assisted by his team, Christopher Mack, and Kate Richards Geller. The Urban Voices Project has found recognition in the front page of the LA Times and was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Urban Voices Project has had the privilege to collaborate with Street Symphony’s Annual Messiah Project, as well as LA Opera’s Annual Community Festival performances. The choir was also honored to sing for the inauguration of Kathryn Barger, the 5th District chair of the Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles County.
Group singing naturally and directly addresses many complex psychosocial needs:
• Physically, singing requires controlled breathing that regulates the heart rate, triggers a relaxation response, and brings the system to a homeostasis that generates feelings of well-being. Vocalizing improves posture, releases muscle tension, and reinforces a mind/body connection.
• Psychologically, singing demands focused concentration, improves mood, invites exploration and self-expression of difficult emotions, and gradually builds self-esteem.
• Socially, singing eases isolation and loneliness, quickly builds bonding in groups, encourages and supports positive social interactions, and ultimately combats the disintegration of communities and improves broader social networks.
Research supports these commonly observed benefits and reinforces the practicality of offering a choir experience to build and sustain community among the disenfranchised.
“Music Labs” are free music classes taught by professional teaching artists from the Colburn School, LA Philharmonic, LA Master Chorale, LA Opera, and other acclaimed music institutions. See Curriculum document. Examples of Classes: Music Theory for Singers, Vocaltech, Songwriting, Songshare, Breathe Management and more.
“Urban Voices Ensemble” is a non-audition Community Choir. Participants are invited to choir after they have exhibited: Accountability, Integrity, Respect, Commitment, Communication, Cooperation. Rehearsals take place weekly and provide vocal technique and a varied repertoire. Performances occur a few times a month at private and public venues in Skid Row and the greater LA area.
Case management: Each member who presents need will be referred to a case manager for personalized assistance to access the clinic services, including crisis intervention, conflict resolution, substance abuse, housing, referrals, and mental health issues.
Contact Info: urbanvoicesproject
- L.A. Weekley [12/13/2016]: A Performance of Handel's Messiah in a Homeless Shelter Brings Hope to Skid Row
- L.A. Times Review [12/11/2016]: 'The Messiah' from opposite ends of the economic spectrum
- NPR Interview [12/24/2014]: Choir Attracts Singers From LA's Skid Row
- L.A. Times Article [11/27/2014]: Skid Row Singers Soothe Their Bruised Soults — Together