Generational Harmonies

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Event Recording: Music Across Generations

Insights from the leaders of an intergenerational orchestra, big band, and choir

By Duncan Magidson | Jun 14, 2024

Music can bring generations together for connection and collaboration, inspiration and celebration. Join us as we explore the power of cogeneration by learning more about an intergenerational orchestra, big band, and choir.

This hour-long event features the Heart of Los Angeles’s Eisner Intergenerational Music program which brings together musicians and singers of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds. The event includes a short documentary about this innovative program.

Speakers include:

  • Marc Freedman and Eunice Lin Nichols, Co-CEOs at CoGenerate
  • Trent Stamp, CEO of The Eisner Foundation
  • Tony Brown, CEO of Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA)
  • Rene Mallia Weiss-Cruz, HOLA’s Intergenerational Music Program Manager
  • Isabella Meier, HOLA Violist
  • Jane Tsong, HOLA Violist

Transcript (machine generated):

Marc Freedman 

Welcome, everyone. My name is Marc Freedman. I’m the founder and Co-CEO of CoGenerate. And it’s my great joy and honor to help launch Music Across Generations today, a new initiative that’s animated by the conviction that music is one of the best ways to demonstrate the power of cross-generational connection and collaboration and also one of the best ways to realize it at the ground level. The I think we’re having a multigenerational musical moment right now. How’s that for a long alliteration, but anybody who saw the Grammys this year, which featured Tracy Chapman and Luke combs coming together in the duet around fast car, which then became a national phenomenon then followed by Joni Mitchell and brandy Carlyle and other cross-generational collaborations will probably agree with that statement. And even the Oscars this year, the Oscar for Best Short documentary, The Last repair shop, have told the story of how music in LA is bringing generations together. If it’s having a moment in the air, it’s also happening on the ground as we’ve seen it cogenerate Over and over again. I’d spend time over the past year at Mirabella senior housing development on the Arizona State University campus where older music loving residents are living side by side with young graduate students in music. And it taught me another alliterative lesson, which is the power of proximity, purpose and partnership in bringing generations together. And the way music could play that role. older and younger people are living side by side. They’re living side by side and sharing a deep, purposeful commonality around music and then they’re playing music together in ways that neither could do on their own. And we’re so happy to feature today the Heart of LA and the Eisner Foundation, which have come together and in a way that is producing remarkable things on the ground. Part of LA is the home of the Eisner intergenerational orchestra, the Eisner intergenerational big band and the Eisner intergenerational choir. And they’re also having a big impact on the cultural in in the air. They’ve been featured in a new PBS documentary in a wonderful Los Angeles Times piece by Steve Lopez and over and over again. And if Heart of LA is is the best way to launch Music Across Generations, the best person to help us do it is Trent stamp, the CEO of the Eisner Foundation and the catalyst for both Heart of LA along with the remarkable Tony Brown’s, musical efforts, and also our close collaborator in Music Across Generations. So I’ll hand it over to Trent with thanks and admiration as well.

 

Trent Stamp 

Thank you Mark, that it’s mutual. We always appreciate your partnership and the great work that you and your team do. As Mark said, for the past several years we have been so proud to work with the heart of Los Angeles, as they have developed the Eisner intergenerational music programs. In our work at the Eisner Foundation, we see intergenerational programs of all kinds, but as Mark just said, there’s just something special about music, age and experience aren’t correlated in music programs like they can be in other intergenerational efforts. And to make it work. Everyone literally has to come together on the same page to find the same note to create harmony. So when Heartland LA’s leader Tony brown expressed a willingness in starting an intergenerational music program, we were thrilled at the chance to create something similar to programs that we’d seen elsewhere. But with everything that makes la unique, and as the program has grown to three ensembles and hundreds of participants, we couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve accomplished. The Eisner intergenerational music programs are truly of Los Angeles. And for Los Angeles, we’ve seen how these programs can have a massive impact on their participants and the community that surrounds them. So we wanted to capitalize on this rare moment four years ago, as the heart of Los Angeles team was building a new intergenerational program from the ground up. We wanted to document how it all came together so that others like those of you who are here Today I could be inspired and learn from their successes and the unbelievable challenges that they faced. So with that, I am now pleased to share with you this eight minute video about the origin of the Eisner intergenerational orchestra.

 

Tony Brown 

Heart of LA is an amazing community center and we’re providing rigorous fundamentals of language arts, math, access to music for kids who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, all of its free for families so that no longer is poverty, the obstacle to realizing their dreams, we’re trying our very best to make a difference not just in the life of one child, but in the life of an entire community. Hi, my name is Tony Brown, and I’m the Executive Director of heart of Los Angeles, and the founder of the HOLA intergenerational orchestra. The Eisner Foundation has really been a leader of providing intergenerational support for programs and activities throughout our city when I had the opportunity to speak with the foundation about a dream that I had to create more intergenerational programming here in this neighborhood. They said, Absolutely, why don’t we take you to a place to where you can see some really good intergenerational programming happening.

 

Trent Stamp 

So we were looking to bring together people of different ages, different ethnicities, musicians of all skill levels, and unite this community around an intergenerational orchestra that would reflect the diversity of this community that would feel more like the heart of Los Angeles. We had seen one in New Jersey, Tony and I went there, and they did great work, but to do it here in Los Angeles, it was gonna take innovation, it was gonna take leadership, it was gonna take courage, it was gonna take somebody who was willing to try to unite their community, and Tony has been doing that for a long time.

 

Jane Eisner 

It was the perfect place at the perfect time. I had really taken on the inspiration of Maestro du du mal, who’s two tenants of life. Our music is a fundamental right, and music will bring a community together.

 

Tony Brown 

Welcome everyone. I’m so excited about today. Okay, so what I thought we could do is welcome introductions.

 

Daniel Suk 

My name is Daniel Suk. And I’m, I’m a musician, artistic director and also conductor. This orchestra is very special in this way, because of its flexibility. This is for multicultural, and intergenerational.

 

Tony Brown 

This was just a matter of last and final step, you know, reaching out to the communities of pockets around the city. When this intergenerational orchestra gets its first chance to come alive, my guess is that there’s going to be a whole new array of individuals across our city that will need this intergenerational orchestra more than ever. To see you guys, we’re so excited to welcome everyone now we’re revving the engines right back up to get all of the former instrumentalists and current instrumentalists together in one room, one culture united to play and build back even stronger.

 

Daniel Suk 

Just want to give congratulations to every single one of you for coming out here. And finally, we are going to play some music today.

 

Luis Fantasia 

Yes. My name is Luis Fantasia, and I’m a director and a writer and an amateur double bass player. And I like the idea of this intergenerational concept you know, as a unifying principle, keeps a geezer like me on my toes. If I’m playing next to some 15 year old doesn’t it? I better have my Wheaties in the morning and

 

Jezebel Cruz 

my name is Jezebel Cruz. Music is important to me because the sounds such as are beautiful to me. Everyone coming together to make one beautiful thing. That’s, that’s pretty cool.

 

Luis Fantasia 

Unless you’re in some extended family knows that you don’t get an opportunity to exchange intergenerationally they quit playing in an orchestra. Yes. When you make a mistake, look at the other guy.

 

Jezebel Cruz 

I hope to gain more knowledge from the older people. I’m very happy that I picked up my instrument again and that this orchestra can give me that opportunity.

 

Jane Eisner 

So many of the arts programs have been cut in public schools. They don’t have an orchestra outlet to play and it gives them the opportunity to play in an orchestra which is a valuable experience for them being part of a team.

 

Luis Fantasia 

Do I still learn everyday? Everyday otherwise you’re dead you know, we were all a little a little nervous at the beginning first couple of meetings. But it’s been great. The

 

Jezebel Cruz 

first day I came, I was the only Viola, I didn’t really feel comfortable playing until the other Viola players came and played in front of an audience before. But I mean, I pretty much have goosebumps about it.

 

Luis Fantasia 

She seems much more confident than she did. The first week, it’s great that she stuck it out.

 

Tony Brown 

There’s a unique power in music that can bring people together. They don’t have to speak the same language, they don’t have to be the same age, they only have to come together to share their gifts through music. And to learn and to grow.

 

Luis Fantasia 

Your orchestra stands as a refraction is an example of the diversity of the city that comes together as a voice and, and the most important thing that you learn is that you listen to one another, and you blend and you harmonize, and you make something better as a group than you would individually.

 

Daniel Suk 

There are concerts that play perfectly, but you don’t feel anything. But there are some concerts will hit you. And it’ll make emotion or emotional rise. There’s something, what they’re saying and what they’re playing. And I think this orchestra will do that. I dream of building an orchestra with the soul, the soul that will communicate to our community.

 

Tony Brown 

Oh my gosh, we’re here. I listened. I could hardly sleep last night. I’ll be honest with you. Because it’s been two years that we’ve been praying and planning and envisioning this day. And now that it’s finally here, I just have goosebumps. Thank you for

 

Mitchel Moore 

being a part of this afternoon’s inaugural holiday concert. And thank you for being a part of the heart of Los Angeles intergenerational family Please enjoy our show.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

Wow, I love that film. I want to invite all of you some of you who are just joining now, to help me give a warm welcome to our all I guess by putting in our chatbox the instrument you play or the instrument you wish to play so that we can kind of surround them with our musical love. I’m Eunice Lin Nichols, I am the CO CEO of cogenerate along with my dear friend and colleague Marc Freedman. And so pleased to be part of welcoming this, this conversation. One I’ll just say, though, I have my role at cogenerate. I am also a violinist. I started playing when I was seven years old and I would perform with my parents and grandparents at our Chinese church. We were like the Chinese version of the Von Trapp family. And when I went to college, I went to college in a small mountain town. And there weren’t enough student musicians to form a full student orchestra. And there weren’t enough professional musicians in this area to form a full professional orchestra. So I had a chance to be part of a cogenerational orchestra that was multi generational and semi professional. What a phenomenal learning for me to build friends as a college student across all those differences. And I always thought it’d be awesome if that existed in more places. And then lo and behold, I found out about the heart of Los Angeles, intergenerational orchestra and the amazing work they’re doing in Los Angeles. And so as we saw in that film, I heard music as a fundamental right music will bring the community together that this type of orchestra is multicultural, multigenerational, which means it’s for everyone. There’s nobody I could be more pleased to introduce to us today. Then the person who has been leading the charge. Tony Brown is the CEO have heart of Los Angeles, his first touchpoint with the orchestra was back in 1993. And then he went on to become a teacher and athletics director to pursue a career in sports management. And then came back home to HOLA in 2006, as the executive director, and since then he has grown the organization’s operating budget nearly fourfold, allowing Allah to serve our more underserved young people with food programs that have helped them realize their full potential. Most importantly, he’s a true believer in the power of intergenerational collaboration. So Tony, welcome. The documentary we just watched was filmed during the pandemic, that was that moment when, when the title card said that things got shut down, felt like it was right as you were trying to launch. What’s happened with your intergenerational programs since then?

 

Tony Brown 

Well, first of all, it’s so great to be here amongst all of these, I mean, it’s I’m seeing in the chat, all these amazing musicians, anyone living in the LA area, join the club, join our choir, come join us, what’s happened since is that we’ve, we’ve grown from an intergenerational orchestra, which now has over usually performing with over 90 to 95 people met every performance, and then has over 100 plus members in it to now an intergenerational big band, and also an intergenerational choir. So you are all welcomed, when you’re in LA to come sing with us and play your instruments, it’s, it’s been, it’s been really great to see La, coming out in the way that we envisioned, you know, in a truly multicultural way. And, you know, I predicted going into this, you sort of heard in the film, that after COVID, you know, there would be this sense of loneliness that we would need to figure out for. And so part of LA has grown exponentially coming out of that, in music has been one of the strongest binds that we have. So, yeah, and then we were mentioned earlier, we were featured in some places, LA Times, and then also on episode four, of a brief history of the future. And so, I think that’s, that’s, it was an honor to be on that PBS documentary. But I also think it’s a foretelling foreshadowing, of what more needs to happen around the country, quite honestly. And around the world. Yeah.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

Can you tell us a little bit about both the successes and challenges that you have encountered along the way pandemic and beyond? And in particular, what advice you might give to other organizations who’ve been deeply inspired by your story? And one experiment with intergenerational programming?

 

Tony Brown 

Well, sure, you know, I would say, you know, part of LA, you know, we like Like, like, you heard, we’re a youth organization, and at first for 35 years, or no, 33 years or two years. And, you know, that’s, that’s one way to think of it. But I think, going forward, we have to think about not not, we have to think about everything we do as as a community building exercise, right? Or endeavor or initiative. And there’s a huge need for that, through anything that you can get your hands on music happens to be very, a very special way to build community, right. But when you when you bring people together, know that you are building community and know that it is it is it is sorely needed, and recognize that there’s, you know, an incredible number of generations who are aging, and that across all generations, there is this sense of loneliness. So as a CEO, you know, operating any sort of nonprofit, I think we have to have that in mind, we have to remember that what we’re really doing is building community through the work that we do, no matter what it is, and we have to be thinking about preventing, or coming up with solutions, I should say, battle loneliness across all generations. And I feel that there’s no better way than to do that intergenerationally because there’s lessons going both ways. And because of the lessons going, you know, upwards and downwards both ways. I think that increases the confidence of our young people and helps them feel a place a sense of place of value. And I think for the elders in the group. You know, it’s something that the United States needs to get better at other countries do pretty well, with their multi Gen racial household. But in Los Angeles, specifically, I think sometimes we put our elders into homes, and we talk to them at the holiday during the holidays. And we’re really missing out on pearls of wisdom that we could be humor and all of it that we can be Enjoying, you know, in our case, weekly, whether it’s Monday through the orchestra or Wednesday through the choir, or Thursdays with the big band.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

I love that. In some ways, Tony, I feel like you’re putting back together things that always belonged together and creating a platform for those connections to happen. I love that part in the in the video, where you can see that kind of magical dynamic between older and younger and the confidence building and the stickiness and relationships. It’s really beautiful. Yeah,

 

Tony Brown 

yeah, thank you so much. And I’ll tell you, you might have noticed everyone that I actually played the clarinet and I sing. And year one, I could keep up with this intergenerational orchestra. But then I realized there was a middle schooler named Biles, who was sitting right next to me. And you know, there were so many notes because I hadn’t picked up my clarinet in 30 years. And I would always lean over and ask him, Oh, my gosh, how do I play this? What is this know to get but reviving, and the big smile on his face, and he was going to be teaching me how to play an instrument that I used to love playing was pretty incredible. But I also realized that he’s way ahead of me. So I got over to the choir. And it’s been a blessing ever since.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

A lot of that sometimes it’s, you know, I haven’t touched my instrument in a shockingly long number of years. And my, my two of my sons play double bass. Mark has a sunny place double bass, but like to say cogenerate has a very high double bass per capita ratio. And, and my kids have recently said, Mom, I think it’s time for you to pick that violin up and develop your own musical hobby, and pursue that if only I were in LA, I would totally try out to for the orchestra. But I think, you know, the young people can call us back into the things that we that we used to do. Well, I’m going to invite your colleagues to join us in a second. But I also want to let folks know if you have questions for Tony or our other guests, please put them in the q&a box, or in the chat box. We’ll we’ll track that. And we’ll have time at the end to answer your questions. So please, pepper them with as many as many questions as you would like. So I’m eager to bring Rene Mallia Weiss-Cruz into this conversation. Rene is the intergenerational Music Program Manager at HOLA and a ethnomusicologist, which, as I understand it, is the study of music of different cultures, especially non western cultures. He’s trained vocalist who sees music as a powerful tool for community building. So Rene, we’re really happy to have you here. And to be able to join with Tony in this conversation. I’d love to know what drew you to this role, and how have you been able to contribute to its evolution and expansion?

 

Rene Mallia Weiss-Cruz 

Yeah, so first of all, thank you so much for having me here. As you mentioned, I’m an ethnomusicologist. And I have my master’s in education. So my focus has always been on. on combating youth depression and ageism in educational environments. It’s been instilled in me that we’re, we’re all lifelong learners, and to be lifelong learners, we have to make sure that educational environments are open to everybody. And music is just that vehicle for me that that that passion of mine, that always has always helped bring down the barriers bring down the defenses that keep people from being their, their true, authentic selves. So yeah, that’s brought me here thus far, contributing to the evolution of the program. I think the beautiful part of being joining program in its third year is that every day is an evolution. We are constantly having conversations about our identity and as an ensemble, on how to continuously make this an accessible space for people of all ages, and not just an accessible space, but also an inviting space. And how do we combat some of those things that prevent people from from from getting out there in the first place? A lot of that loneliness that has been mentioned thus far, kind of plays into itself. So how do we get people out of that? That zone of loneliness and into our our space of community?

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

I love that. I think that in some ways, music feels like the perfect container or scaffolding for creating belonging, creativity and connection and I see that so powerfully through your orchestra. I’m curious Hey, Tony, this is a question for you first, which is in some ways leadership can be very lonely at times, you hear that a lot leading at the top all by yourself. cogenerate we really believe that the future of leadership is cogenerational actually leading in community, and that older and younger leaders create better strategies and solutions when they work together. But frankly, it’s just maybe more fun when you do it together. So you’re 54 I believe, and Renee is 29. I think if I do my math correctly, that’s like a 25 year difference between the two of you was creating a cogenerational leadership team intentional, and how do the different generational perspectives you and Renee bring influence your organization?

 

Tony Brown 

Wow, okay, it was intentional. But the funny thing was, was at 54, I still think I’m 34. So, you know, when I first set out on this journey, the I was trying to hire someone who would be like, you know, in their 60s or 70s, for Rene’s role. That was my first effort. But, yeah, now that you put it into this lens, I think it’s fantastic. To have Rene’s perspective in in everything that we dream about and do. It’s really refreshing. Honestly, both he and I, I think are trying to really give each and every one of the members an experience that, that they basically walk away saying, I don’t know what I do without this experience, you know, and an experience, which they say, This is what I look forward to most of the week. And that’s something that we come together a third years as separate our, you know, desire to do that. And so we have maybe some different ways in which we think we need to go about getting there. So it’s fun to change a story, it’s fun for me to be able to share what I think some of the members might be looking for, to fulfill that dream. And Renee brings a perspective for other folks, you know, what they might be looking for that I haven’t even thought. So. It’s really neat. For me to be a cogenerational the operating or supporting this program is fantastic. And there’s a lot of learning that happens, and a lot of patience. Across Generations, that has to happen. And I think we both learn daily and weekly and this work. Yeah,

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

right now give me a chance to weigh in on this one, too. What’s it like for you to work closely with an older leader like Tony, even if he thinks he’s 34? How does your awareness of this intergenerational collaboration with him influenced the way you interact with musicians of all ages in your various musical programs?

 

Rene Mallia Weiss-Cruz 

Yeah, I mean, I’d like to start off with Thank you, Tony. I, I’m glad that I contribute a personality or a different perspective. But honestly, like, this guy is pretty hip with it. It’s, it’s, I was trying to bring him on to some new rap, but he was already on top of it. And yeah, he’s he’s. But that’s, that’s what we do here. You know, he’s, he’s constantly surrounded by people of different generations. And I think that’s a wonderful example of what we’re recreating in our ensemble. But what I’m truly gaining is this ability to go beyond beyond assuming what people’s needs are assuming or, or beyond going beyond the cheap people how they want to be treated, or how I want to be treated, and learning to take into account how those people need to be treated, or want to be treated. I think the biggest or the most obvious way has been in our communications to this you know, it’s very easy to pop something on a new app that pops up our pop details and updates on the new app that pops up. And you know, if your hip with it, and our QR codes here, you’ll keep up to date. But it also is worth and important to take the time to communicate in other methods in person via email. So I think Tony just keeps me on my toes. Make sure that I’m not getting stuck in my own perspective, and and truly considering all people’s needs. Thank you for that, Tony.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

Yeah, thank you. Thank you both for sharing that perspective. I’m going to let the two of you go off camera now. And I’m going to invite in an intergenerational pair, Isabella Meyer and Jane Tsong to share their experiences playing viola in the orchestra together and I’m also going to remind and those who are watching and listening to put questions in the q&a or the chat box for any of our special guests, including Mark and Trent, we’ll invite them all back at the end to answer your questions. So let’s see. I’m gonna start with an introduction of Isabella. She is 19. And a freshman at the Music Conservatory at Cal State Northridge. She joined the HOLA orchestra when she was a junior in high school and quickly became principal BLS. But perhaps the most important fact for you to note right now is that she’s currently zooming in from Iceland, where she is performing, so I think she gets the prize for most committed cogenerational guests we’ve ever had. Thanks for being here with us. Jane is in her 50s and has only been playing the viola for a few years. She joined the orchestra this past year and immediately felt welcomed and energized by the diverse community and incredible talent there. So Isabella, I want to start with you. You’ve credit being part of the this orchestra with pulling you out of a particularly difficult time in your life, and helping you to believe in yourself and your potential to dream big. I’d love to hear more about that.

 

Isabella Meier 

Yes, of course, hello, everybody. So during my junior and senior year of high school, I was very badly bullied physically, verbally, I was really attacked. And I came to a point where I was very suicidal and was I had to be put on a mental health leave from school and almost did not go to school, my entire junior year, which I went to a music school. So that means I could not play viola. And I started to lose my passion. That was really sad. And I was really losing hope, like in the last, it was probably going to be my last few days, I was really considering I found this orchestra. And I was like, why don’t I just go play with one of my last times. And I went and I was I just felt so at home, like I had a new family. And right then and there, they heard me play and after orchestra, I was doing the principal violist I had been playing for 10 years prior. And it really gave me a reason to keep going because Eisner felt like, like I had a part of you that was just missing and gone. Eisner really fueled that and it changed my life because I feel like this orchestra coming together intergenerationally we just created this family. And we all just related to each other with music. And even like with Jane, like when she when, when Jane first came in, I saw that she was a little bit nervous with herself in her plane. But I also saw a little bit of her in my eyes, because she was really unsure about herself with her musical journey. And the way that this orchestra has boosted me up and raised my vibration. And just I want to give back to others and give them the strength to keep going. And that’s what I felt like I really helped Jane because she told me a couple times, so don’t give up, don’t play this, if I drop out, I’m like, Just keep going. Just keep going like you got it just keep playing, there’s no matter if it’s wrong, it’s gonna get better. Right, it’ll always get better, because you can always go up right. And then I also want to Daniel SERC are my show and conductor, he really played a huge part in my transformation because I want to lose all hope. And he just saw the such potential in me, which is now what I like to give to my section into the cogenerational people in this orchestra. And wrote me beautiful letters of recommendation and was admitted to the Manhattan School music this year. With his help, I would have without this orchestra and not have been alive, not been breathing today and not have been as successful as I am. With my music career. I’m here in Iceland now making my debut as a soloist. And like, and last year in Italy to hear my letter recommendation to go play there. So I honestly I owe my life to this orchestra and all of its intergenerational connections that I’ve had with all the people in my section and being step up as the youngest and only female section leader at all. So it’s been really such a journey that I wouldn’t have been on without the help of this wonderful community that you’ve built here.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

Thank you so much for sharing that story. Isabella and I think about how many young people are going through holding really heavy mental health challenges and I’m so sorry to hear that you were bullied in such a terrible way and wow, it just that you had a place that you describe his family to embrace you. And just to know what it felt like to have that one place Fair, it reinforced to you that you belong, that you’re creative. I think you used the word. What was it that it raised your vibration, I love that it’s almost a musical way to describe I feel the energy.

 

Isabella Meier 

Yeah, like I totally felt energy in the room, it was just positive, this just positive radiant vibe that would leak off for everybody and just give it to me. Like they were just giving me their kindness with their music, and saying hello and greeting everybody. When they walked through the door, it just I felt so at home. And even though I’ll be going to Manhattan School Music, this will always like I will always come back for the eyes cogenerational orchestra.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

I love that, Jane, it’s been so fun just to watch her face, as it was Isabella tells her story, just like I feel the relational emotional connection there. So feel free to respond to her story. But I also would love to bring in a little bit of your story. I think I’ve heard that you sometimes describe music as your first language. So I’d like to hear what you mean by that and how those early experiences connect with where you are today in your musical journey with this intergenerational orchestra.

 

Jane Tsong 

Yeah, well, during the pandemic, it was like the pace of everything that I had organized my life around had just stuck. And so so suddenly, I was in touch with these parts of myself that had been submerged for decades. And so I like I had been totally consumed by raising children and finding work and this whole world of projects and ambition. And now all of a sudden, there’s all this space for contemplation. And so so somehow I picked up the viola like I discovered the viola and I started working with the teacher. And so all my life, I had known how to read music, and I play different instruments, but I didn’t connect, you know, with making music until now. And I think it was like my experience as an older person wanting to express myself feeling I have something to say and, and, and there’s this outlet, and, and it just spoke to me at certain elemental level. And so I fell in very deeply with music, making music. So yeah, so I think of it as I come to realize it’s kind of like a first language because my first language was actually Taiwanese, my mother tongue, which I spoke when I was really young, I don’t speak it anymore. You know, after we started going to English language school, I don’t speak anymore. But music I had learned to read before I could speak English. And before I could read words on a page, I could speak, I could, I could read music, and I could play music. And so it kind of feels like, you know, with English language, there was all this trauma, and difficulty around learning to express myself in English. And obviously, I learn to express myself in English, but but there’s this sense of loss because English is not my family’s language. And yet with music, it was like when I started playing music again, it was like picking up on this part of myself. That was from childhood. And, and so it’s funny, like when I walk into all that people see me like I look older, right? But when I play music, I feel like a little kid. Like, I don’t think about my age, right? And so I invite amazing coincidence. No, one of the most powerful music experiences I had when I was a kid was listening to the dance of the nights from Romeo and Juliet. And when I heard that something theme and rhythm, I just felt like dancing, right? It was like, my first powerful music experience as a kid. And I didn’t even speak English them. And I walk into Hola, and that’s what we’re playing. And so, you know, it’s like, I feel like a kid would just love it, right? I totally love it. Amazing.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

It’s like it was it was meant to be full circle. I also wanted to say I love that you describe that earlier part of your life is feeling submerged. It’s such the opposite of Isabella, when you said that it raised your vibration, it’s like, you know, almost feel like it could have the energy pulls you out of the muck and and you create something new together. Also really resonate with music as something that transcends language and culture. In some ways. It’s really transformational. You both speak so beautifully about the ability of music to connect beyond surface differences and experiential differences. I’m wondering, Jane, if you might speak a little bit about how it has felt to be an older member of the orchestra with somebody 30 years your junior and leading your section. as

 

Jane Tsong 

well, as, as I said, it doesn’t feel like he is really, you know, significant in this in this space because although I’m older, I’m really a beginning musician. And so it’s funny people assume that, you know, being older and Asian that I’m accomplished musician does not like that at all. So as as Isabella said, I really struggled when I walked in, like, I thought I knew about music. But the first rehearsal, I, I was so lost, I didn’t even know what page we were on, I have to look on other people’s scans to go up page. Yeah, and it was like, so complicated. But Isabella was like, such a, and so poised and, and I think every time I talked to her, she just radiated, this kind of, like, she, she radiated, this, this beautiful energy and, and always assumed that I couldn’t do it, it was like, she never assumed that I couldn’t do it, right. Like, she assumed I could do it. And, and so I felt like it was natural to, to just just play, you know, and do my best. And that was really fun. So I almost feel like this kind of, among younger generation, maybe it’s more common to find this model of leadership that is about empowerment. And, you know, for my generation, we didn’t always have that, right. It wasn’t the only model. It wasn’t the dominant model of leadership when I was growing up. And so I, I really love that energy from Isabella. And, you know, another instance of, of that was, I was at the dress rehearsal, and I happened to be sitting next to Marcus, who’s a very skilled musician, and he’s in high school. And, again, it was stressing about not being able to play well enough, and I didn’t want to ruin the sound of the bonus section. So Marcos gave me some technical advice for playing better. But he also quoted Beethoven, he said, to play a wrong note is insignificant, but to play without passion, is inexcusable. So it was like, wow, I just got this amazing nugget of wisdom from the musician I was sitting next to and, and it was such an interesting kind of nugget. And it’s really the core of why we come together and music is, because when you step into this space, there is this feeling that we’re all in it together. And we’re uplifting each other to make the best music, that we

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

Thanks for sharing that Jane. And Isabella, I love your story. It’s so powerful. It’s so clear why these intergenerational programs are vital for our communities, not just to make music, it’s so much more than music. I wanted to invite Renee back for a minute just to, to ask this question, which is, when these programs are so clearly powerful, and our society needs more of it? What does the future hold for these programs? How might we expand what we’ve heard and seen today?

 

Rene Mallia Weiss-Cruz 

Let me catch up with my emotions real quick. That was beautiful. So ultimately, you know, we’re hearing, it’s impactful here. My research is literally about how music is impactful. as Tony mentioned, you know, our goal is to have people leave this space thinking, how was I doing without this? So moving forward, the natural next step is spreading this this wonderful resource, this idea throughout the country throughout the world, showing that, you know, this is what a shared passion for music can create. When you’re intentional about making that for everybody.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

Love it. We are about 15 minutes from the end of our time together, I want to invite our other guests to come back on video. So Mark and Trent. I know Tony had to run to to another engagement. So we’re grateful we had him for by the time that we did. And that means Renee, you get to represent the program as as, as his cogenerational half. And so I’m going to start with actually a question for you, Renee, but also just a heads up Isabella and Jane. There’s some interest in your reflection on this too, which is that Tony had mentioned the link between social isolation and loneliness and intergenerational programming. And one of our our attendees is wondering if Renee you’ve seen examples of that kind of connection and belonging happening through your programming and the Jane is Well, if you’d reflect on whether or not that antidote to loneliness or isolation has been true for you

 

Rene Mallia Weiss-Cruz 

I immediately think of our most recent showcase where we were fortunate to have all three ensembles on stage at the same time. Very massive display of our community and afterwards, and we played outside into our park, the park that we’re located in afterwards, we had a wonderful reception where we invited families onto our stage to enjoy food with with us and literally join become our community. And I was able to have conversations with a lot of our choir members who had reiterated what Tony had said, this sense that outside of here, they don’t really feel like they belong in spaces where where there are use, and this this opportunity kind of really puts that all aside, puts age all aside, in making people feel like that’s something that’s going to make them not belong and brings up age as, as our as something that, that we’re all contributing to this space. So I hope that answered the question. But to that person, please feel free to ask a follow up. Yeah.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

Jane or Isabella. Yeah, Jane, go ahead.

 

Jane Tsong 

Yeah, it really is such a special space. And I think, my involvement with music part of the decision to, to, to, to join the group was in the sense that I’m thinking about what kind of life I want to lead as I get older, right? You I am in this amazing city, it’s like this candy shop, it’s full of love, there’s so much time and so much untapped potential artistic potential, you know, among, among every part of our city. And so my experience in the music community is like, I participate in a bunch of groups that I love, they’re all great. But all that is, it’s not just intergenerational, but because it’s free, it really taps into, you know, a much broader, broader representation of, of our city than the other groups I’m in. And I feel like that business is so amazing. And I love you know, when I get a chance to talk to people, you know, their story of how they can read music and how they came to be here, the stories are so diverse. And, and a lot of times in the classical music world, you know, here, there’s not, there’s starting to be more of a voice for, you know, those different pathways, but I feel like, Allah is such a treasure, and I, I just am so appreciative to the space, and then the chance to to be led by Isabella, and just watch how your career has been, you know, to share those moments with you where you are, Lord, because he had opened this email, you know, that you had this invitation to lead a viola section at Carnegie Hall, you know, and we got to share, you know, like, your career developing and that way, I hadn’t no idea about the backstory, you know, like, all the all the difficulty I’ve been through and, and, and but it’s been so amazing to, to be able to, you know, share, share that excitement with you about, you know, your career.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

Yeah, I love that. Trent, I don’t want to, I don’t want to put you on the spot. But I also kind of want to put you on the spot. I think that Jane had said part of what makes the intergenerational orchestra great is not just that it’s intergenerational, it’s that it’s free. And that brings to light the importance of, of philanthropy and other entities to fund this kind of thing. It doesn’t take many barriers to cause people to not do things and especially if you’re isolated alone, or are having other struggles in life, this just another barrier. Do you see potential for ripple Anthropy to find more things like this and help bridge that gap?

 

Trent Stamp 

Well, I hope so. I don’t ever want to you know, spend other people’s money. But we have seen the power of this type of programming at HOLA and in other communities. You know, for us, it was important that it be free for the participants to participate, but it was also important for us that it be free for the community to attend. And we wanted to make sure that we were not only building an orchestra, but building a community asset. And so every concert is free, no matter how nice a venue they play in or whether they’re playing in the park, we didn’t ever want there to be a charge for this type of thing. So we’re hopeful that, that other foundations, other private funders, other corporations will see how these types of intergenerational programs can not only create world class art, as we’ve seen from from Jane and Isabella, and Renee, but also can do the community building work that hola has been doing for literally decades in tearing down barriers and building up communities. So we see it as a win win, you’re able to serve multiple populations and a community as a whole. But, but that’s part of what we’re trying to do here today, right is to is to convince other people that this is a worthwhile endeavor for not only participating in but for investing in.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

Yeah, I understand this question, a version of this question for you. And Marty should feel free to weigh in as well. It’s a question from a Yale who says that? Do you have suggestions for validating intergenerational arts projects in and of themselves as worthy of support, versus also trying to tie in other things like how it addresses social isolation, loneliness, or underserved young people or whatever? Is there a way in which like, just the existence of the intergenerational arts component is itself worthy of funding?

 

Trent Stamp 

Well, I’ll just go real quickly, and then turn it over to Mark. But it’s just I think it’s important to recognize it in this particular case, Heart of LA had been doing high quality community development work, literally for decades, they had a proven track record of success in serving a vulnerable population in a community that needed to be served. And we went to them and said, Would you be interested in doing the high quality work that you’ve long been doing, but to do it intergenerational? So they had already proven to people that what they do is important, and it has high impacts, and they were getting kids into college, and they were providing high quality programs to two kids that needed those types of programs. So we were able to build on that success. And so I’m hoping that other organizations that are already serving kids or seniors and have have a proven track record can pivot and say, Well, why don’t we do this intergenerationally also, and not have to necessarily just start from scratch. Mark?

 

Marc Freedman 

Yeah, well, I, you know, I started out talking about the popular culture and what we’re seeing there and I think it shows one of the one of the unique contributions of intergenerational music which is just creating things that are beautiful, that no one person to hear Luke combs sing fast car is great. He’s had a hit with Tracy Chapman, the year before Luke combs was born with fast car, seeing them sing it together, listening to them is to create something that’s different. One of the things that we’re interested in doing in the next phase of Music Across Generations is a version that we’ve been calling generations got talent which is about duets in in multiple genres of older and younger people. Creating beauty that no one generation could fashion on its own.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

Generations Got Talent. I love it that actually gets to a question that Eric Limburg asks, which is what experienced, does anybody here have with intergenerational groups, smaller groups, you know, sextets, or Cortez? Or do let’s? And also a correlated question, which is how when you have an intergenerational group, do you solve some physical challenges like hearing loss, or other other issues that you might need to take into account when you have a variety of ages? That might be for you, Renee, oh, but Isabella first? Great.

 

Isabella Meier 

I can definitely speak on that. Recently, we were given the pleasure to perform the board leaders meeting in downtown and we it was our first attempt at a string quartet, which was really nice. It was me I played the cello part. And then another Bueller’s intersection conflict, the viola part. And then we had Steve are strings. I later had high strings, play the first violin and then Barney, which is I think one of our oldest members in the orchestra play the second violin part. And she was definitely We are having a really hard time. So if we would kept trying to put a metronome and she was just having a little hard time picking it up, I was like, You know what, let’s go really slow. And we just really pull that it pulled out and took up a knot. And when we all performed, it was so great. And she got really emotional. And she was like, this is actually the first time in all of my years playing violin, I’m guessing she’s probably in her mid 70s That she’s ever played in a string quartet, or small ensemble of any kind, which like really was so touching to me to actually be a part of that, and be a part of her process and getting through the hardship of being able to play as a soloist, because you have to think, as a soloist. And she was just so inspired. And she was telling me, I would love to do this, I would, I want to do it again. So, and of course, some people have reached out over summer to do string quartet work from orchestra, which is really sweet. So I bet she will definitely be doing that. And it’s it’s just so cool to be able to witness that intergenerational connection between all of us and helping her helping her understand how to play in a chamber group, which she’s ever done before.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

I love that response. And we are two minutes to the top of the hour. So Renee, I want to you can respond to that question. But I want to loop it in with another one which is asked by Shanti and Leticia, which is their sort of the music development that’s happening in the foreground. And then in the background, there has been was like leadership development and personality or character development. And Leticia pointed out Shane, you’d said I had something to say. And then the music gave you a chance to say something? How Rene Are you building the background, so that it’s really intentional. It doesn’t just like just happening by circumstance. Absolutely.

 

Rene Mallia Weiss-Cruz 

And I think for each of our ensembles, that looks a little bit differently, we really lean into the cultures of those ensembles. With orchestra, it is a culture of, of having that section leader who can can guide you through the storm, these really, really difficult pieces. So we really spend time with our section leaders, making sure that they’re getting it and that they have us as a resource. To they have us and each other as resources to answer questions, get through tough dialogues and get more perspectives. Ultimately, with our choir, the choir is culture is really about having fun and letting guards down. We are singing Broadway tunes. And honestly, when you’re singing Broadway tunes, you can go from from rent, to wicked, you’ll get laughter, you’ll get tears. You’re, like I said earlier that that brings down your barriers. And that’s where we are really able to have some some open conversations, where we spotlight members, and have a moment for members to tell us their story, and answer any questions from the group. And then finally, the big band jazz, we lean into the improvisation of jazz, you know, being able to just jump out and just take the lead and a piece. That that is we lean into, excuse me, we lean into that culture by yes getting to by just inviting our musicians to lead sessions. So in the jazz band, we have specific musicians in different rehearsals kind of leading the session and taking a little bit control, giving their their particular set of skills to the rest of our ensemble.

 

Eunice Lin Nichols 

I’m gonna let you have the last word per day with that sort of journey through the different types of music where we can create, create new things together. A couple themes that I heard today that I want to end with is just the importance of how music can help us be part of a team and how we can speak that common language. I also heard through Isabella and Jane especially how music provides the ability to intergenerational music provides the ability to learn and grow at every age and life stage, and to build confidence and purpose. And the director in the film I wrote this down because so powerful. He said an orchestra with a soul can communicate to our community. And I love that idea that the intergenerational orchestra would be the orchestra with the greatest soul. So as we wrap up, we’re going to put a one question poll out here for you all to answer or and basically the poll is to ask if after attending the session you’re inspired to include more older and younger people in your life. I hope you are because I certainly am. And I want to formally thank Tony, Renee, Jane, Isabella, Trent and Mark, everybody here for joining today. This is such an important conversation that doesn’t get enough light of day appreciate the Eisner foundation for being one of the few philanthropies that is shining a very bright light on this work. And for the musicians and the directors of the program who make it happen every day. We are so grateful for you. We hope this gives you a little light and creativity and the raised vibrations for the rest of your day today. Isabella, good luck in Iceland. If there’s a way for us to hear a recorded performance of your solo debut. Please follow up with us. We’d love to be able to share that with our community. Thank you, everyone.