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Press Release:


Press Release:

Tuesday, 21 June, 2016

Multi-Year Initiative Shares the Inspiration of Music to Spark Joy, Alleviate Trauma and Connect Individuals with their Creativity

 Initiative Expands Seattle Symphony’s Already Deep Commitment to Engaging Homeless Communities through Creative Projects, Innovative Partnerships and Strategic Residencies 

Seattle, WA – The Seattle Symphony today launched Simple Gifts, a multi-year initiative that will share the inspiration of music to spark joy, alleviate trauma and connect individuals with their creativity through artistic projects, residencies and access to performances. The program is an expansion of the Symphony’s current partnerships serving those experiencing homelessness.

The initiative was announced at Benaroya Hall in an event that included performances by Seattle Symphony musicians and community participants as well as remarks by Seattle Symphony President & CEO Simon Woods, Mary’s Place Executive Director Marty Hartman, Path with Art Executive Director Holly Jacobson, and City of Seattle Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim. Today’s announcement is a response to City of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine’s declaration of a State of Emergency for Seattle and King County’s homelessness crisis last November. The Seattle Symphony began working with those experiencing homelessness in 2013.

“Our city is experiencing a homelessness crisis which is profound in its complexity. This is a problem that impacts 10,000 people in King County on any given day*. We have a unique opportunity to build on the work we already do in the community to create a sense of belonging, provide respite, give hope and share the healing power of music with those in need,” said Woods. “We hear from our partners that what we do makes an enormous difference to their clients. We believe, as they do, that engaging in creative work makes the ‘invisible’ visible, it builds confidence, influences self-perceptions and connects people to their own creativity.”

“We have heard repeatedly from our partners working in the area of homelessness that creativity in art and music enhances problem-solving in other areas of life,” added Laura Reynolds, Director of Education & Community Engagement. “When we give someone a concert ticket, it’s a moment of respite and beauty. When we engage someone in art-making, we hear how it changed the way they see themselves and process trauma. Being involved with music and creativity can create a sense of safety and stability, when so many other aspects of life feel overwhelming. Music has a unique power to remove barriers that isolate us and to help manage anxiety and stress. As our musicians and staff develop personal relationships with program participants, our ability to understand and advocate for each other increases immensely.”

A participant from a recent collaborative project between the Seattle Symphony and Path with Art shared, “When I took this class I had no idea what to expect… I was unsure what I had to offer. After a few classes it dawned on me that this is the definition of Community. The beauty of Art is that it can be molded into many forms. To be able to add something of my own freedom of self-expression and put it together with other artful minds-alike, demonstrates the beauty of a Community in its artful form.” Path with Art is a Seattle organization transforming the lives of people recovering from homelessness, addiction and other trauma by harnessing the power of creative engagement as a bridge to community and a path to stability.

The Seattle Symphony partners with 60 local nonprofits across six sectors including youth, cultural, health services, social services, seniors, and active military and veterans. Of these, there are currently 15 partners working specifically in the area of homelessness: Aloha Inn, Compass Housing Alliance, FareStart, Frederic Ozanam House (Catholic Community Services), Mary’s Place, Mockingbird Society, Path with Art, Plymouth Housing Group, Prospect Enrichment Preschool, ROOTS Young Adult Shelter, New Futures, Seattle Education Access, Street Youth Ministries, Youth in Focus and YouthCare.

* source: All Home King County:


The Seattle Symphony began working with community partners serving individuals experiencing homelessness in 2013. The three areas of work with partner organizations encompass the following types of projects: Artistic Partnerships, Residency Programs and Ticketing Programs. These projects will expand and come under the umbrella of Simple Gifts. A new, fourth area in Community Service will be added in the 2016–2017 season.

Artistic Partnerships

Artistic partnerships deeply engage participants in self-expression and the creation of art.

Path with Art Community Composition (new in Fall/Winter 2016–2017 with performance in March)

Creativity Connects Project: Holiday Symphony (new in Winter 2017 with performance in February)

Lullaby Project (annual project with Mary’s Place beginning in March, culminating with performance in May)

See next section for descriptions.

Strategic Residencies

Teaching Artists make close to 80 community site visits each year to numerous community partners. Those residencies serving those experiencing homelessness are listed below. Strategic Residencies are a regular and consistent presence where Teaching Artists support specific partner goals, such as building self-advocacy, self-efficacy, resiliency, creativity and teamwork skills.

Mary’s Place Musical Storytime (Monthly since 2013)

Plymouth Housing Group Composition Project (6-week summer residency, new in summer 2016)

Prospect Enrichment Preschool Musical Storytime (Monthly since 2014)

Ticketing Programs

Since the Community Connections program began in 2010, over 6,000 tickets have been given free to community members who would not otherwise be able to experience the symphonic music. These tickets are distributed through 60 partner nonprofits across six sectors including: youth, cultural, health services, social services, seniors and military organizations. Of these, 15 partners specialize in serving those experiencing homelessness, but many others also serve low-income groups or those who are at risk of homelessness. The participants respond with written feedback about the experience and what it means to them to be able to attend the concert.

Community Service Project(s)

Seattle Symphony and Benaroya Hall (musicians, board, staff and volunteers) are in the planning stages for a collective service project serving those experiencing homelessness in our community to commence in the 2016–2017 season.

Photo courtesy of the Seattle Symphony


Path with Art Community Composition

Path with Art students will take part in a 16-week residency to create an original score, inspired by artistic banners created by Path with Art students as part of the organization’s interdisciplinary, community-based, year-long We Are All Here project. Inspired by the understanding that in order to solve community problems, we must first come together as community, We Are All Here makes use of poetry, visual art, and music as a way to bring diverse populations together for meaningful conversation. Seattle Symphony Teaching Artist Jessi Harvey will begin working with Path with Art students this October. The resulting score will be premiered by Path with Art students and a Seattle Symphony chamber ensemble in March 2017 against the backdrop of the banners.

Jessi Harvey is a composer and teacher living in Seattle. She holds a master’s degree in Music Theory and Composition.

Creativity Connects Project: Holiday Symphony

Youth and adult participants from Mary’s Place, Compass Housing Alliance and two other community groups (to be announced) will engage in cultural exchanges and creative workshops and create artistic responses or reinterpretations of the holidays in Charles Ives’ New England Holidays in terms of their own personal experiences and communal histories. The community-curated multi-media responses will be displayed as part of the subscription Masterworks series performances conducted by Music Director Ludovic Morlot at Benaroya Hall on February 2 and 4, 2017. Prior to the performances, members of the partner groups will take part in a pre-concert discussion on the stage. Ives’ New England Holidays is a work of art that will spark conversations, inspire reflection, and amplify the voice of participants and the project will build deeper community connections for Seattle Symphony audiences. Each of the four partner organizations will focus on a movement from the work, and a poetry element will be part of the presentation.

CHARLES IVES    New England Holidays

Washington’s Birthday Mary’s Place (Families)
Decoration Day Compass Housing Alliance (Veterans)
Independence Day Partner to be announced
Thanksgiving Partner to be announced

The project will be led by Seattle Symphony Teaching Artist Rebecca Aitken, MFA, and Dr. Larry Starr. Aitken, an art instructor at Northwest University, holds an MFA in Illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. Dr. Starr is Chair of American Music Studies at the University of Washington and a renowned expert on the music of Charles Ives, George Gershwin and Aaron Copland in particular, and on American popular music and musical theater.

Lullaby Project, a National Program of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute

In partnership with Mary’s Place, which shelters families experiencing homelessness, the Seattle Symphony recently concluded the third annual Lullaby Project. The Lullaby Project is a workshop series where Seattle Symphony musicians and Teaching Artists come alongside mothers in crisis situations to create personal lullabies for their children. Over the course of a short two-month period, musicians and Teaching Artists meet with participating mothers in a creative workshop where mothers are guided to express their thoughts and hopes for their children in writing, while Symphony musicians and Teaching Artists help pull out words, phrases and themes to craft them into verses and melodies, creating personalized lullabies. The mothers attend a private recording session at Benaroya Hall, during which Symphony musicians and Teaching Artists perform each mother’s lullabies on stage while Seattle Symphony audio engineer Dmitriy Lipay records the performances. Finally, a sharing session takes place with each lullaby performed for the families, and each mother is presented with a personal recording of her lullaby.

Lullabies from the 2016 Lullaby Project were also performed at the Northwest Folklife Festival, along with a short film, panel discussion and creative workshop open to all Folklife attendees. The 2017 Lullaby Project will be inclusive to both mothers and fathers; and will be led by Seattle Symphony Teaching Artists and musicians, Seattle Symphony Education & Community Engagement Manager Thomasina Schmitt and evaluated by Seattle Symphony Education & Community Engagement Manager and Board-Certified Music Therapist Kristin Schneider. The culminating performance will be on May 13, 2017.

Photo courtesy of the Seattle Symphony and Tracey Salazar


The Seattle Symphony’s work with individuals experiencing homelessness began in 2013 with the Lullaby Project and has grown to include artistic residencies and ticketing programs with 15 Community Connections Partners. Now under the name Simple Gifts, this program will expand as an organization-wide commitment to share the power of music to spark joy, alleviate trauma and connect individuals with their creativity. The “gifts” refer to the simple dignity, joy and hope that music and the creative process can bring to others, and what the Seattle Symphony hopes to bring to all members of its community.

The Shaker tune “Simple Gifts” was written in 1848 by Joseph Brackett and made famous by American composer Aaron Copland, who included it in his 1944 ballet, Appalachian Spring. Now used throughout popular culture, this well-loved tune has come to symbolize simplicity, joy and freedom.

Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony will perform Appalachian Spring Orchestral Suite with dancers Evelyn Kocak and Matthew Prescott on June 23, at 7:30 p.m. at Benaroya Hall, as part of the Tuning Up! Festival celebrating American musical creativity. For tickets to hear Copland’s Appalachian Spring on June 23, please visit


The Seattle Symphony’s Simple Gifts Partners are the 15 Community Connections Partners who directly serve those experiencing homelessness.

  • Aloha Inn: The Aloha Inn not only houses homeless people temporarily, but allows qualified applicants to save money for permanent housing while developing skills that will contribute to long term stability. The Aloha Inn empowers residents to build community while rebuilding their lives.
  • Compass Housing Alliance: Compass Housing Alliance provides housing, shelter and support services to people experiencing homelessness and poverty. Compass supports 16,000 men, women and children annually through 48 programs in 28 locations throughout the Puget Sound region.
  • FareStart: A culinary job training and placement program for homeless and disadvantaged individuals.
  • Frederic Ozanam House (Catholic Community Services): Permanent housing facility and services for formerly homeless men ages 55 and over; low-income housing, 56 units. This facility was built in 2009 using Seattle Housing Levy funds.
  • Mary’s Place: Empowering homeless women, children and families to reclaim their lives by providing shelter, nourishment, resources, healing and hope in a safe community.
  • Mockingbird Society: Improving Foster Care | Ending Youth Homelessness
  • Path with Art: Path with Art transforms the lives of people recovering from homelessness, addiction and other trauma by harnessing the power of creative engagement as a bridge to community and a path to stability.
  • Plymouth Housing Group: Plymouth Housing Group works to eliminate homelessness and address its causes by preserving, developing and operating safe, quality, supportive housing and by providing homeless adults with opportunities to stabilize and improve their lives.
  • Prospect Enrichment Preschool: Prospect Enrichment Preschool is designed to help each child acquire the skills and confidence that will promote their optimal development. The preschool is based upon the educational philosophy of respect for the individual child, their ability to grow and develop inner controls, their ability to think and play creatively, and their ability to discover and use their own resources.
  • ROOTS Young Adult Shelter: ROOTS works to end homelessness one young person at a time.They provide a safe place to sleep, find resources and be empowered, and serve over 600 young people each year.
  • New Futures: Southwest Youth and Family Services (SWYFS) partners with youth and families to transform their futures. As a program of SWYFS, New Futures provides a wide range of educational support and family advocacy services at sites in White Center, Burien and SeaTac.In 2013 SWYFS mergedwith New Futures, creating astronger, more versatile organization primed to reach more families in southwest Seattle and King County through programs focused on education, family support, behavioral health and youth development.
  • Seattle Education Access: Provides higher education advocacy and opportunity to people struggling to overcome poverty and adversity.
  • Street Youth Ministries: Street Youth Ministries (SYM) is a nonprofit, faith-based organization serving homeless and at-risk youth ages 13–26 in the Seattle area.
  • Youth in Focus: Our mission is to empower urban youth, through photography, to experience their world in new ways and to make positive choices for their lives.We put cameras in the hands of youth and place them in a challenging environment surrounded by high-quality talented teachers and nurturing adult mentors, creating a strong community of support.Through photography our students find their voice, identity and creativity, and gain new confidence in their worth and abilities.
  • YouthCare: YouthCare builds confidence and self-sufficiency for homeless youth by providing a continuum of care that includes outreach, basic services, emergency shelter, housing, counseling, education and employment training.


Simple Gifts is part of the Seattle Symphony’s comprehensive Community Connections program for nonprofit organizations. Community Connections provides access for a wide range of communities to attend Symphony performances for free, attend pre-concert workshops and participate in in-depth creative projects. The Seattle Symphony currently partners with 60 local nonprofits across six sectors including youth, cultural, health services, social services, seniors, and active military and veterans. Projects include customized pre-concert events, music-making workshops, creative projects and community concerts.

Last season, the Seattle Symphony gave away approximately 1,800 concert tickets to over 50 local nonprofits. Teaching Artists made close to 80 community site visits and facilitated five creative residencies. In addition, in-depth special projects such as the Lullaby Project and prison visits further enhance the Orchestra’s presence and work in the community.


The Community Connections Program, which includes Simple Gifts, is sponsored by 4Culture, The Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, The Boeing Company, The Fales Foundation Trust, The League Of American Orchestras, The Seattle Office Of Arts & Culture, The Snoqualmie Tribe, Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund, The U.S. Bank Foundation and The Wells Fargo Foundation.

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