Mickey Hart, best known as the drummer for the Grateful Dead and a member of our Circle of Advisors, talks about the rhythm of music that connects us all in a common heartbeat. At Bread & Roses Presents, we are fortunate to witness on a daily basis the transformative power of music and the performing arts to bring diverse audiences together in a communal experience. Wiley and Debbie Rankin of Jump for Joy Music, Ross Commons and Gail Muldrow are among the many performers who create community for Bread & Roses isolated audiences in a variety of ways.
Jump for Joy Music Offers Respite
When Wiley and Debbie Rankin perform, they seem to get as much energy from their audiences as they give. Hip Hip Hooray, Wiley calls out to the kids, wearing his sparkling top hat and the children clap along in a shared musical vibration. Volunteer host Barb Withers noted at a show at the Rafael House in SF, a homeless shelter for parents and children, how the music offered the families a chance to come together in a “clear musical respite” from their daily life challenges.
At the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, children from pre-school to pre-teen follow the sound of the music through hospital hallways to gather with their parents and staff by the Family Life Center. Host Kit Durgin reported, “Even the shyest children beamed as the group shared their names in the song New Friends Today. With keyboard, guitar and great instincts about bringing their audience together, Jump for Joy Music entertains with heart and soul.”
Ross Commons Replicates A Broadway Experience
A choral group that has volunteered for Bread & Roses for over thirty years, when Ross Commons performs familiar jazz standards and show tunes like Singin’ in the Rain and Brazil they bring a festive spirit and positive energy to senior audiences. Host Arthur Javier reported of a recent show at The Tamalpais, “The audience was tuned in to this group because they had energy, gusto and were very professional. Watching them perform was like sitting in a Broadway theatre in New York for a smashing show.”
Gail Muldrow Connects People Through Shared Emotion in Song
Soulful singer and gifted guitarist Gail Muldrow gave the homeless men at the Marin County REST Program a very special experience. Smiles and clapping showed that the music had helped to ease their high stress of living on the streets. After dinner when they had prepared their sleeping bags for a night’s rest, the men sang along to her rendition of The Youngbloods Get Together. Host Dick Miner said “The show was a great example of music’s wondrous power. Where food and shelter are top priority, Gail connected to these men and had them talking about music from their past. One man said the music made him want to get his guitar back from the pawn shop and start playing again.”
At a program last year at San Quentin, Event Producer Lisa Starbird reported a strong testimonial from one of the men. “With music, we listen, watch and learn. It is a mutual experience. The songs that are important to us have an emotional connection whether it’s a wedding song, a break-up song or about loss. A song has the power to bring back an emotion. That’s powerful to me.”
For forty-two years, Bread & Roses has brought hope and healing through live music to those who need it most. In over six hundred Bay Area shows every year, we see the many ways that live music and other performing arts bring people in diverse audiences together as community. Music is a humanizing force. At every show we see its incredible capacity to bring joy and to make a difference.
Photos by Peter Merts (Sept. 2016)