Posted by: ldonaldson
on Sep 01, 2011
Robert Gupta's story is an inspiration to us all: not only does he play first chair violin for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he is also their youngest performer, having joined the orchestra in 2007 at the age of 19. What is perhaps most remarkable about this young prodigy is that in addition to his professional music career, he also directs his own free concert series, The Street Symphony, which brings live classical music to the homeless and mentally ill on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. KQED's California Report recently did an audio story on Robert's social service outreach, which includes comments from the patients after his concert. You can listen to the report here: http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R201108250850/b
In the San Francisco Bay Area, Bread & Roses serves a number of residential mental health facilities at major hospitals including short-term units at San Francisco General, and California Pacific Medical Center, as well as longer-term treatment facilities such as Cordilleras in Redwood City and Canyon Manor in Novato. Among our most challenging audiences, we know that mental health patients, particularly those who are also homeless, can be hard to engage and at the same time, are often deeply appreciative of and positively affected by music's healing force.
Gupta's interest in music as therapy for the mentally ill was perhaps inspired in 2008 when he met and began tutoring Nathanial Ayers, the schizophrenic musical virtuoso who is the subject of the bestselling book, The Soloist by L.A. Times columnist, Steve Lopez. Many of you might be familiar with the film adaptation, which stars Jamie Fox and Robert Downey Jr. Of his time working with Ayers, Gupta remarked that he was struck by how music seemed to calm Ayers and act as a sort of medicine or therapy. It was at that time that Robert began The Street Symphony.