The Violin Channel recently caught up with Grammy Award-winning violist and pedagogue, Kim Kashkashian, on her concert series "Music for Food" — a musician led initiative for local hunger relief.
The "Music for Food" (MFF) events are donation–based fundraising concerts, where the presenters and artists pledge to give all proceeds and fees to local food banks and pantries.
The initiative was inspired by fellow violist Carol Rodland's Rochester–based food drive concerts entitled "If Music be the Food."
Now celebrating its 11th season, "Music for Food" has provided over one million meals to cities around the U.S. and the world. We sat down with Kim to discuss this project, its beginning, and what she sees in its future.
How did "Music for Food" get started?
"Music for Food" started over the dinner table, surprisingly enough. My colleagues and I were discussing how we could create a model for our wonderful young professional students to use their gifts and talents to find their place as active citizens, not only in the world of music but also in their communities.
We thought that the nourishing aspect of music and the nourishing aspect of food belonged together — that music has an ineffable power which could be used to create concrete food for people in need, and that artists need to be rooted and grounded in their own communities and therefore responsible to those around them.
What does a "Music for Food" concert entail?
Every community finds its own way to create "Music for Food" events. For example, Sharon Robinson does house concerts in Cleveland which are paired with a yearly event sponsored by the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) Student Government. In New York, Natasha Brofsky runs a series at Broadway Presbyterian Church.
In Boston, we have a series with four concerts, an Intern program through the New England Conservatory, and a Fellowship Program for young artists to connect with schools in the greater Boston area.
Any musician, anywhere in the world, can choose to be a part of the MFF team by creating a concert event or designating an already existing concert as an MFF event.
The defining factors are that all musicians are volunteering their energy and talent, that there is a sharing of awareness about the issue of Food Insecurity and its devastating consequences, and that all audience donations are directed to a food pantry.
You mentioned before that this was great for students as well?
Within the MFF community, students learn how to organize, to create an audience, and to make interesting programs — all kinds of activities that come with being a musician in today’s world! We are training what used to be called being a 'Renaissance Person' basically.
Is there a playing standard expected?
That’s a great question! Anyone who puts their heart into playing their best is included! A Suzuki school can make a MFF concert. Our Washington Chapter has an active core of great amateurs.
Is there anything else that you’d like our readers to know?
In the United States, there are 50 million Americans who go hungry every night. It is a silent and invisible disease affecting every community. We are seeing 40% higher client use of food pantries.
The power of music to help is enormous. We find that students and professionals alike find that playing a concert for this dual purpose — to make beautiful music and also to make something positive for the community in a concrete way — has an incredibly potent, beneficial effect on the way we make music. The little stuff stops mattering like 'am I going to make this shift, am I going to play in tune, will I be heard…' It all dissolves into the beautiful fact that you are playing to create food.
How is this initiative especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We face a time in which all performers are suffering, but we are at least able to use the vehicle of the Internet and social media to reach out, to communicate our love of music, and serve the purpose of helping families feed their children.
Historically seen, in any time of crisis, the arts can preserve our spirits, indeed, our sanity! In the case of MFF, the arts can produce food to maintain health.
What can you tell us about how important it is for musicians to be responsible and caring citizens?
The wonderful and wise Arnold Steinhardt said that it is the task of any mentor to make sure our young musicians are looking not only for a place in the music world, but for their place in their communities. We cannot live without a context, without a perspective. Whether that be at home, or in the community, nation, or world.
The primary impulse behind a work of art is to show a truth, and such a truth is always valid in every perspective. We as interpreters must also have a sense of context if we hope to inspire change in the spirit and perception of the receiver.
I think it is not wrong to imagine a more fluid, resonant feedback or energy triangle. The artist communicates, the receiver is moved and changed, and they are inspired to transmute and pass on what they gained.
For more information on "Music for Food," including how to register to participate or donate directly, please visit their website at: www.musicforfood.net.