2017 Hero Juliana Han AB '03, JD '08 co-founded the Piedmont Chamber Music Festival (PCMF), an annual summer festival featuring internationally-renowned performers who also give interactive chamber music performances in Oakland, CA at local community centers such as homeless shelters, hospitals, and nursing homes.
The Harvardwood Heroes grant helped fund the Community Engagement Initiative of the Piedmont Chamber Music Festival (“PCMF”). The mission of the Festival and of the Initiative is to engage with people with limited access to live music and to use the power of music to help diverse individuals communicate and commune together....
The format of the performances was informal, interactive, and integrated with the community at each site. At the homeless shelters, we performed in whatever communal area was available, using whatever resources we could find. At Cityteam Oakland, a men’s homeless shelter, there was only one large area; during the day, it was where the men gathered to watch TV, read, or otherwise pass the time, and at night, it was where the cots were set up in rows for sleeping. The spinet piano had been donated just a week ago.
This integrative approach enabled us to fulfill the mission of the Initiative, which is to use music as a means to bring different communities together. The personal interactions at these performances made them extremely rewarding for both musicians and audience members. One of our musicians said that these concerts were the highlight for her of the entire festival, including performing in our sold-out feature concerts with nationally acclaimed artists. By scheduling the Initiative prior to the other festival events, we had the time to get to know our audience at each venue. At St. Mary’s Center, we performed just before the lunch hour in the main hall where the homeless community gathered to eat. Because of this timing, we were able to have lunch with the audience afterwards and get to know them and hear their individual stories. Our hearts were warmed by how easily they opened up about their lives and the thoughtful questions they asked about us and our craft.
The logistical challenges of the Initiative stemmed from the fact that these communities were so underserved. When organizing these performances, several staff mentioned that they had never had anyone offer to come and play music before. As a result, we had to work with the staff to utilize whatever they had, whether that was moving out an old piano with what looked like the minimum number of working keys from the corner, or finding enough chairs to seat everyone who was usually in and around the area.
These challenges were minor, however, compared to the result. The performances were successful, not because the sound quality was recording-worthy, but because we brought our musical language, undiluted, to a new audience, and connections were made. The program at each center included Beethoven, Schubert and Taiwanese folk songs. At the men’s shelter, after the Schubert Rondo, one participant raised his hand and asked how many songs were in that last bit. We answered that it was just one piece, but he was right in hearing so many different parts, as that is exactly the form of a classical rondo! Many at that shelter had never heard Schubert or Beethoven before, a fact that not only astounded us but highlighted the gap between what we take for granted and the experiences of others. That gap, and the opportunity to bridge that gap with the music we love, perfectly illustrated the reason for the Initiative.
We thank Harvardwood for the grant that helped us carry out the 2017 Community Engagement Initiative. Our experience this summer reinforced how important it is to use whatever means we have to bridge divisiveness in society, to see and reach out to the communities which are merely miles away in geography but much more distant in personal experience. We are committed to undertaking this Initiative in future years of PCMF and hope that other funders will join us.
Juliana is a pianist based in New York City, where she is currently finishing a doctorate in performance at the Juilliard School. At Harvard, she discovered by volunteering with groups like MIHNUET and Harmony MED how music can bring about societal change. Juliana co-founded the the Piedmont Chamber Music Festival (PCMF), an annual summer festival in the Bay Area featuring internationally-renowned performers. An important component of the festival is the community engagement program, which brings together performers for interactive chamber music performances in Oakland, CA at local community centers such as homeless shelters, hospitals, and nursing homes. The program will also present a Children's Concert designed to introduce young kids to classical music. The mission of the program is to engage with people with limited access to live music and to use the power of music to help diverse individuals communicate and commune together.
In Spring 2017, we awarded four $500 grants through the annual Harvardwood Heroes program in recognition of Harvard alumni performing outstanding work at the intersection of the arts and service. This Thanksgiving weekend, we're catching up with the 2017 Heroes to share their program updates with the Harvardwood community and to express our gratitude for their inspiring impact on their communities.