Generational Harmonies

Generational Harmonies

After severe bullying from her high school classmates, violist Isabella Mier was suicidal and losing hope when she discovered the Eisner Intergenerational Orchestra. “Why don’t I just go play for one of my last times?” she asked herself. “And I went, and I just felt...

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The Best 13 Minutes You’ll Spend This Week

My favorite intergenerational music documentary of all time

By Marc Freedman | Jun 11, 2024

Just after the Oscars, I wrote about The Last Repair Shop, the 2024 Academy Award-winning documentary about four older people who repair the 80,000 free musical instruments used by public school students in Los Angeles. It’s a beautiful film about a vital intergenerational bond.

Yesterday, I offered up five additional music documentaries that I believe uniquely illuminate the multiple ways music can bring older and younger people together in creativity, connection and collaboration. I closed that blog with the promise that today I’d unveil my favorite intergenerational music documentary of all time.

My award goes to…A Concerto Is a Conversation, directed by Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers, the same directing team behind The Last Repair Shop. To my mind, it’s the best film Proudfoot and Bowers have done, which is saying something! (Proudfoot’s The Queen of Basketball also won an Oscar.)

A bonus for all you busy people: The film lasts a total of 13 minutes and 13 seconds. Oh, and it’s free to stream here.

The backdrop of A Concerto Is a Conversation is the debut of Kris Bowers’s violin concerto for the L.A. Philharmonic, “For a Younger Self.” The film tells the story of Bowers’s 91-year-old grandfather, Horace, who escaped the Jim Crow South for LA in the 1940s and found work at 17 in a dry cleaners. Two years later, he purchased the business, launching an entrepreneurial career memorialized when an area of South Central LA was named for him.

The elder Bowers did all this while navigating racism in lending and life. “In the South they tell you,” he comments, “in Los Angeles they show you.” Bowers soon discovered he could get bank loans if he mailed in the application instead of showing up in person.

At the beginning of the film, Horace asks his grandson, “What’s a concerto?”

“It’s a conversation,” Kris responds, one between a soloist and an orchestra. As the men talk, they make it clear that cogeneration is a conversation, too. They demonstrate the value and vitality of olders and youngers talking to each other with humility and curiosity.

Ava Duvarney, who produced the film for the New York Times OpDocs channel, says it features “an intimacy within the sphere of Black masculinity that is so rare to see, that crosses the generational divide in a way that is rarely seen.”

Here’s to hoping that this fine film is more often seen! Watch it when you find a spare 13 minutes today. I promise you won’t regret it.Please add your comments on LinkedIn and join me on June 13 at Music Across Generations, a webinar featuring leaders and members of the Eisner Intergenerational Orchestra. Register now.