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  • Lisa Starbird

Successful Re-Imagining of Bread & Roses Programs 2020-2021

By Lisa Starbird

Performer Eric Rubin sings with children at the North Bay Children's Center, 2021. Photo by Elizabeth Armitage, North Bay Children’s Center.

We know that music is essential. And we have discovered that presenting live music in different forms continues to bring hope and joy to those who are isolated and need it most.

The Bread & Roses staff continues to work together to re-imagine how we can best evolve our program services during the COVID pandemic. Our successes have come from bringing live music to Bay Area food bank programs, scheduling outside concerts and facilitating live Zoom shows. With these initiatives, we are going strong!

Food Banks

One of our biggest accomplishments to date has been our collaboration with various Food Banks including the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank/Kerner, Oakport/Alameda County Community Food Bank & Second Harvest of Silicon Valley.

We are happy to report that we have served eight new different food bank locations. Most are drive-up, some are walk-up, some were temporary emergency food pantries and all follow social distancing protocols. As some close, others open and we continue to evaluate the best possibilities to provide our services.

We are currently celebrating our one-year anniversary at the San Francisco-Marin/Kerner drive-through location. This was our first food bank initiative and where we have continuously provided music outdoors EVERY Saturday since July of 2020. High caliber performers Mitch Woods, Jeffrey Halford, Tony Saunders, Syria Berry, Kurt Huget, Carlos Reyes, Rolando Morales, Dave & Joan Getz, Craig Caffall, Karen Drucker, Michael Hatfield, Heartstrings Bridge, Si Perkoff, Zach Lee, Syria Berry and many more have all generously donated their talents and extra time to play multiple sets of music.

Performer Syria Berry with Event Producer Lisa Starbird at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank in San Rafael, 2021. Photo by Linda McVey.

The music creates a community atmosphere that is uplifting to people picking up their food as well as the volunteers sorting, lifting and loading the cars. Students who have volunteered have included Bread & Roses in their school projects and reports. We have even received donations on the spot and in the mail from some of the food bank volunteers and others who have seen us there.


“Each time Bread & Roses transforms the atmosphere of the distribution to that of a warm and welcoming community celebration, it is to the benefit of everyone there.” -Second Harvest of Silicon Valley


Zoom Shows

This initiative continues to grow with good results. We have had some facilities that have created specific programs around the music including West Marin Senior Services “Lunch and Listen” and Marin Ventures' new “Zoom Room.” A substantial benefit of presenting virtual concerts is that we are able to serve facilities at a distance while saving on driving, gas mileage and bridge tolls for our staff, volunteer performers and hosts.

Long-time performers Wendy DeWitt & Kirk Harwood, who moved out of the area to Ukiah, have become one of our most successful virtual performing groups. They have gone the extra mile to present excellent Zoom concerts, with multiple cameras at different angles and professional sound, delighting those who are able to watch their upbeat boogie-woogie music broadcast from the intimacy of their home studio in a lovingly converted former church.

Ongoing monthly Zoom shows have been very successful at some of our facilities like The Cedars & the VA Hospital in Menlo Park. In those facilities, we have been able to serve additional audience members simultaneously for our virtual shows. Youth performer Lyle Belger created a weekly series for The Cedars where clients from several group home locations looked forward to seeing her regularly. Stinky Tales and Grampa Clyde have also dedicated their time doing frequent Zoom programs at children’s centers in Marin and the East Bay.

It looks like Zoom concerts are here to stay and will continue to be included in our expanded program model. Please let us know if you are interested in helping us serve some of our clients with live virtual programs including music and the performing arts.

Performer Doug Nolan of Rock Steady Juggling at the North Bay Children's Center, 2021. Photo by Marian Hubler.

2021 Program Services: January through June

In the first six months of 2021, we were able to present 233 programs for 35 of our 126 facilities for 41,078 people. Comparing these numbers to the first half of last year, during the 2020 COVID pandemic, we produced 127 programs for 34 of our 126 facilities for 5,668 people. In 2021, we presented 106 more music programs for 35,410 more people than during the same time in 2020. Below are some notes of interest.

  • Audience numbers are higher because of the new food bank initiative.

  • 85 of our facilities continue to be Covid-restricted and we are limited in our ability to serve them.

  • We have increased the frequency of our programs to the facilities that we can actually serve.

  • During the first two quarters of 2021, we presented 108 Zoom shows, 108 outside Food Bank programs, 16 regular outside shows, and one inside show for our institutional audiences.

With these ever-changing times, we continue to be flexible and adaptive. With ever-present awareness, we have continued to maximize our efficiency and our potential. We are dedicated to keep moving forward with this expanded re-imagined program model.

We want to hear from you! Let us know if you are interested in performing outside for our institutional audiences or at any of the food bank locations we are serving (Marin, Alameda or SF/Peninsula), or if you might be available to play a virtual Zoom concert for our isolated audiences of children, adults or seniors. Contact:

Hope and Healing Through Live Music. Together We Are Making A Difference.


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