|Sing For Hope (Lekha Singh)|
Eighty-eight keys make a
piano. Eighty-eight pianos sprinkled throughout Manhattan, for all the world to
see, make a passion live for singers Camille Zamora & Monica Yunus. The Julliard alumni are gearing up for
a June piano extravaganza throughout New York to touch the hearts and souls of
the music that lives in everyone. It's called Sing For Hope. An extraordinary
mission by extraordinary muses is the delight of this story and its writing.
Sing for Hope Co-Founders
Camille Zamora and Monica Yunus discuss the progress of their passion during
The Sing for Hope Pianos celebrates Sing for Hope's vision that
everyone deserves access to the arts and to creative expression. The project
selects artists from across the city, with visions as diverse as their
backgrounds, to customize their own unique piano, which will be part of a
public art installation designed to make music accessible to the community. 88 pianos, representing the 88 keys on
a keyboard, will be placed throughout the five boroughs of New York City from
June 1st-16th so that professional and amateur musicians
alike can take turns making music. After the installation closes, the pianos
will be presented to under-served schools, hospitals and other local
organizations, enriching our local
City communities through art for years to come.
Painted by a Sing for Hope Volunteer Artist, public school student, or iconic
New York personality chosen through an open application process, each piano is:
a unique, individually
credited work of art,
the donation of time and talent of an artist, civic figure, or
community group chosen through our open application process, and
of a year-round continuum of arts outreach to communities in
Sing for Hope, with our roster of over 1,000 Volunteer Artists, is uniquely
positioned to bring unwanted pianos to loving new homes. Once on the streets,
neighborhood associations and community organizations serve as "piano buddies"
and supervise each piano throughout the duration of the project, making sure they are
covered in case of inclement weather, etc. The Sing for Hope Pianos unite our city, as artists from all
walks of life create daily spontaneous concerts and neighborhoods come together
around the shared gift of music and art. After their public residency, the
pianos are donated to local schools, healthcare facilities, and community
organizations, where Sing for Hope artists and community members continue to
bring the pianos to life year-round through classes, performances, and
The Sing for Hope Pianos are the "hardware" for the "software" of our
year-round arts outreach programming. They are tangible, playable symbols of
our "art for all" mission and a joyful celebration of our city's cultural
diversity. One of the country's largest public art installations, the pianos
reach over two million New Yorkers and visitors.
|Sing For Hope (Shawn Hoke)|
What was your first inspiration to begin this incredible
Our inspiration to start Sing
for Hope comes from our belief that the arts are central to our well-being:
they help us learn, connect, heal, and envision and create a better
world. Yet too often, the most vulnerable among us - inner-city youth, the
elderly, hospital patients, people living in poverty - have minimal access to
outlets for creative expression. So, Sing for Hope (SFH) is a way for us
to work together to make the arts accessible to everyone. From classrooms to
hospital rooms to the city streets, SFH taps the inner artist in each person.
Because with art, comes hope. And that saves lives.
|Sing For Hope (Shawn Hoke)|
Can you describe in simple
terms the essence of your work and its relevance in today's world.
The Sing for Hope vision
of art for all is informed by our belief that the arts have
unique power to uplift, unite, and transform individuals and communities. Our
outreach programs in under-resourced areas - from schools to community centers
to healthcare facilities - demonstrate this every day. Each Sing for Hope program is defined
by the service of artists, the needs of the community, and our
belief in the transformative power of the arts. Sing
for Hope provides a network of support for artists of all kinds, from almost every artistic discipline - from dancers to instrumentalists to opera singers to
visual artists - who share their art with communities in need. This "artists' peace corps" of more
than 1,000 volunteers are the engine that drive the Sing for Hope mission and
their dedicated involvement is what allows Sing for Hope such a vast scope.
Discuss your youth and growing up; your interests and
ultimately your chosen area of work. Can you offer any highlights of how
you were influenced growing up, including any milestones, whether direct or
indirectly associated with this field of work?
To quote a recent article,
"Sing for Hope was founded in 2006 by best friends Camille Zamora and Monica Yunus, internationally acclaimed sopranos who met as
students at Juilliard. Camille and Monica share a belief in the power of arts
volunteerism to transform communities in need. Recognizing their shared
passions, they established Sing for Hope as a resource for artists to engage
local communities. Today, Sing for Hope is the country's leading "artists'
peace corps," a nation-wide movement that activates artists as agents of
transformation in under-served areas and promotes the ideal of art for
In our own words...
Zamora: Sing for Hope's development has been
organic - a response to a need. When my best friend died of AIDS in our hometown of
Houston, I wanted to do something to contribute, to make myself feel better as
much as anything. So I performed a small concert to raise funds for the hospice
where he died. It ended up being an important healing event for myself and
for the community. You realize that music can be a catalyst for bringing people
together and for charitable giving. So we saw this pick up speed in
Houston year after year. By year three or four, my opera colleagues all over the country were
saying, "If you ever need another singer, call me!" United Airlines sponsors
the event to the tune of 10 free tickets annually, but I was getting this
comment from as many as 70 or 80 singers a year. Monica and I started
dialoguing about it, asking, what if there was a go-to resource for artists who
can't necessarily write a big check for a given cause, but who want to give
back through their art?
Yunus: A few years after we left Julliard, Hurricane
Katrina hit and I felt a similar need to do something to help. I organized a
concert with Camille's help and we raised several thousand dollars, and felt we
had contributed in some small way. The larger discussion that came out of
that was about creating an organization that would empower artists to serve
communities in need through this incredible art we have. We wanted to provide a
resource to bring communities together and allow artists to give back through
what they know best - their art. So Sing for Hope, the greater
structure, was born out of these conversations. Our motto is "Uniting
Artists, Uniting Communities." Now in our fifth year, our programs touch thousands
of lives by leveraging the volunteer power of professional artists to create
positive change for communities in need.
|Community members gather around a 2011 Sing for Hope (Sing For Hope (Adam Suerte))|
What has surprised you most over the years?
It has been wild to see how
help often comes from unexpected sources! We've definitely seen how
things often feel the toughest right before a break-through. Staying open,
positive, and true to the Sing for Hope mission along the way has definitely
been key. As our organization's name implies, we never give up hope!
What message would you like to send to students?
Figure out what you love and
then stay with it. Be prepared for a long haul, during which
"stick-to-it-iveness" is key. If you really love your work --
love your chosen field, love your colleagues, love the spirit of what you do --
you will find your place. Careers are lifelong and ever-evolving, and as such,
you will find that you will tap a wide range of complementary efforts and
skills along your path: communicating, teaching, mentoring, writing,
presenting, producing, pitching, collaborating, creating.
Along the way, don't be
afraid to reach out to people whom you respect -- teachers, coaches,
colleagues, professionals whom you admire -- to ask for advice, help, and
support. These people form your supportive inner circle, the "Team
You" that you can turn to them along your road.
Careers, now more than ever,
are constantly changing journeys: in the years ahead, you will likely work
alone and in groups, teach, travel, have heady moments and not-so-heady moments,
and times of extremely full schedules as well as periods of less activity. The
through-line, and what sustains you, will be your passion for your chosen
field, and your desire to learn and share your discoveries. Enjoy the process,
and thank you for sharing your work with our world, which really does need it!
Who are your heroes and role models and
We have so many people who
have helped us along our path and continue to mentor us every day. Key among
these heroes are
our board members, who bring such passion to our organization, and our
Founders' Circle - a group of visionary philanthropists who have ensured Sing
for Hope's mission longterm. Our Founders' Circle includes the wonderful
Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, the beloved Metropolitan Opera
Chairman Ann Ziff, and the generous Arnhold Family Foundation in loving memory
of Sissy Arnhold. Their generosity stands as an example of what is possible
when civic spirit, passion for the arts, and generosity meet.
Another key hero along our path
includes the brilliant entrepreneur Hamdi Ulukaya, president, CEO and founder of
Chobani yogurt, whose supportive spirit is a beacon for Sing for Hope and our
Brian Feist and Adam Goldenberg
are two other SFH guardian angels, whose tireless efforts helped our
organization to find an incredible home for our Sing for Hope Pianos as they
are brought to colorful painted life by our Volunteer Artists.
Luis Moreno of jumP is our
angel who, from the outset, helped us to forge our strategic path and create a
brand identity that would truly sing for hope in the wider world.
Lastly, the people who
participate in our programs every day - our incredible staff, Volunteer
Artists, students, community members - provide our ongoing inspiration. They teach, inspire, and mentor us every
What do you love the
most in your life and work?
We feel so fortunate to do
what we love, with a team we love, in a city we love!