Law Rocks Boston Music Matters Grant Recipient 2024

BCC News

A key component of Law Rocks’ mission is to promote music education for underserved youth. In 2023, due to our increased sponsorship and fundraising, Law Rocks was able to offer a new grant at each Law Rocks show: The Music Matters grant. This grant, continuing in 2024, is given to a local nonprofit that supports youth music education in each of our U.S. tour cities. Omi Crawford, director of Law Rocks, says of the grant initiative:

“Since our 2009 founding, Law Rocks has supported hundreds of incredible nonprofits, with an emphasis on youth music education organizations. The Music Matters grant is a natural evolution of our mission and a chance to formalize our support of amazing music education nonprofits across the country.” 

Today’s spotlight is on our 2024 Law Rocks Boston Music Matters grant recipient, Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC). BCC’s vibrant, jubilant, and powerful performances have established them as leading young artists in the city of Boston and beyond. The organization presents over 50 performances per season and is internationally recognized for its innovative programming. We are happy to celebrate and support the work of this organization that nurtures the talent of the diverse young people of Boston.

Keep reading to learn more in our spotlight interview with Boston Children’s Chorus Music Director, Kenneth Griffith.

1) Can you tell us a little about the history of your nonprofit, as well as its mission and focus?

“Boston Children’s Chorus has a special history. We were founded 21 years ago and have provided excellent choral music education since 2003, but we were actually founded by Hubie Jones, a social worker and beloved Boston civil rights activist – one of the 69 civil rights and social justice leaders whose names you see inscribed on the 1965 Freedom Plaza surrounding the Embrace sculpture on Boston Common.

Hubie - still going strong today at age 90! - had seen the Chicago Children’s Choir perform on a visit to the city. He was inspired to see how that choir was bringing together children from all over the city, across diverse backgrounds and communities. Boston didn’t have anything that brought kids together in that way, to not only make music together, but learn from each other, advocate for justice, and uplift community. With his legendary talent for organizing, Hubie came home from Chicago and got on the phone with everyone he knew in town to make BCC happen! We’ve gone from dozens of singers who came together that first year for the dedication of the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge (dedicated to Boston activist Lenny Zakim), to hundreds of singers who now rehearse weekly in rehearsals across the city. And it’s just the beginning of our next 20 years!

BCC’s mission is to harness the power of music to connect our city's diverse communities, cultivate empathy, and inspire social inquiry.”

2) What is the best example of the way you’ve seen your organization’s work make a difference? 

“I am so proud of the beautiful, joyful concerts our singers put on – especially when we sell out venues like Symphony Hall for our MLK tribute concert, bringing together families and important civic partners together from all over the city to celebrate MLK’s legacy! We celebrate underrecognized civil rights legacies and explore themes that singers don’t always get to engage with in their schools, homes, and other activities. But one of the most exciting aspects of our work, from the very beginning, has been the way we use music to create a space for singers to build lifelong connections and step into their full identities with confidence and support.

At our Upper Choir retreat last fall, we brought together our older singers for a weekend of singing and community. We broke singers into small groups to talk about BCC and its impact on their lives. There was a recurring theme of young people feeling, no matter their backgrounds, that sometimes - in other places in their lives - maybe they didn’t matter, didn’t fit in, or even had a hard time living up to their own expectations for themselves. Because of their time at BCC, they had found a place where they could build confidence as musicians, people, individuals, and artists, and even in other parts of their lives, like school or their own personal advocacy for causes that mattered to them.

In addition to our music and social justice mission, the experiences singers have in their weekly rehearsals are life giving and affirming and helps them to grow into who they are. It’s beautiful to see this story come up in a number of individual ways – with the difference we are making being the same – singers are at a formative time in their life when they are learning who they are in their time here, and they empathize with and support each other on their journeys. And I think this feels especially meaningful for this generation of kids, who were so impacted by the disruptions of COVID at a young age and are dealing with an increasingly polarized world.”

3) What are some upcoming initiatives that you are planning for? 

“First of all, mark your calendars for June 18th! We’re bringing a project called Big Sing to Mattapan and Dorchester, bringing together hundreds of kids across neighborhood elementary schools for an exciting, totally free to them opportunity to make new connections, sing in a choral setting for the first time, and perform together for their communities. This is our second year for Big Sing, which debuted in East Boston last year.  

We also have a project called Opus Nuovo that focuses on commissioning from diverse composers from around the world. Diversifying the cannon of music that is available for our singers to perform is a really important way we can make more space for underrepresented voices, and our singers also collaborate directly with composers to create these new works. One of our most exciting Opus Nuovo partners in the past few years is a composer and activist named Zakiyyah Sutton, who has an incredible skill set that ranges from opera to hip hop to film. She worked with us on our MLK concert in 2023, and we released a beautiful music video with her in February for a piece called THRIVE. We’re hoping Zakiyyah can come back again next season to explore new ways our singers can use their voices in song and activism. 

We’ve also been working really hard to make sure we are reaching kids where they are by adding more options for rehearsals in underserved BIPOC neighborhoods in Boston. This is one way we can work against barriers like neighborhood geography and the pressures of gentrification, especially in the post-COVID years when families who have fewer resources are still dealing with a lot of tough challenges. We’ve gone from three locations to eight, with two new sites for training choirs opening this fall in Hyde Park, very close to Mattapan, and Allston/Brighton. We also are ramping up for our second year of bringing choral music into schools in Boston and Chelsea where kids might not otherwise have an opportunity to have music be a part of their school day and community celebrations.”

4) What is the greatest challenge your organization faces? 

“For me as the Music Director of such a unique organization, we are challenged to continue to find positive ways to dialogue about social issues with our young people even as the world around them becomes increasingly divided and polarized. There are many different perspectives and lived experiences in every one of our choirs – and as we learn music together, our conductors also bring singers together to talk about the meaning of the music we’re singing, and the important histories, themes, and social issues we’re lifting up, from climate change to women’s suffrage to the challenges and lived experiences of the LGBTQ+ community.

Sometimes, when perspectives vary, this means we have hard conversations. But we learn from and empathize with each other, and still become a community that harmonizes together. To me this is the most exciting and most meaningful thing that happens at BCC. Singers see the things they have in common, and come together to share positive, affirming music that carries messages about living together better, and working together to make a better world.”

5) What does the power of music mean to you?

“The power of music, to me, is that it can serve so many different purposes. A favorite song can uplift you on a dark day, and even support holistic wellbeing. As a young person, when my grandmother was in a long-term care facility, I would go to play piano or sing for her and her community. I saw first-hand the power music had to provide healing for people who were dealing with significant end of life illnesses and challenges.

 Songs also inspire movements – they encourage us to take action, embrace change, increase our own awareness of what is happening in the world, and think about how we can help carry each other. The versatility of sharing music in the day to day – to create connection between people who are not otherwise connected, for joy, for pleasure, or for a bigger purpose – that’s what is really exciting and powerful about music!”

6) How will the Music Matters grant be used?

“Grants like Music Matters are so critical - your support helps us make sure our programs stay accessible as possible, and that cost is never a barrier. BCC offers sliding scale tuition for our after-school programs based on household income, free school programs, and scholarship support for important experiences like touring nationally and internationally. Overnight retreats like I talked about are offered for no cost to families and get kids outside of their neighborhoods and routines to connect with each in a natural environment. We are incredibly grateful!”

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