Carnegie Hall Citywide
By Jeff Tamarkin
That age-old question, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” now has an answer other than “Practice.” Thanks to the ambitious Carnegie Hall Citywide program, it’s now also correct to reply, “You wait for Carnegie Hall to come to you!”
For Carnegie Hall Citywide (previously called Neighborhood Concerts), the world-renowned venue has partnered for the 2018–2019 season with local community organizations to bring dozens of concerts by outstanding artists—as well as exciting rising stars of classical, jazz, world music, and more—to concert venues, museums, schools, and libraries, as well as community, cultural, and religious centers in all five New York City boroughs. Best of all, every concert is free!
The wide-ranging live music series is part of Carnegie Hall’s long-standing mission of sharing the joy of music with people of all kinds, all over the city. “As Carnegie Hall looks beyond its four walls in service to its community, these concerts continue to play an integral role in supporting one of our key goals: ensuring that inspiring musical performances can be a part of every New Yorker’s life,” says Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall’s executive and artistic director.
“Carnegie Hall Citywide is the best example of the city’s generosity of spirit. It is something that is essential to the culture of New York,” says Wade Schuman, leader of Hazmat Modine, the genre-bending band that performs in Queens this October. “Carnegie Hall Citywide harkens back and continues the social consciousness that has been a huge part of the creative life of New York City in the last hundred years. As a musician and artist, I am so proud to be a part of this.”
That generosity of spirit that Schuman describes is contagious.
During the concert series’ 40-plus–year history, more than 1,000 concerts have been performed by over 400 artists in genres ranging from Indian classical to bluegrass, from chamber music to salsa. This season, the Hall was thrilled to partner with Bryant Park for the very first time, presenting five free outdoor after-work performances in Midtown Manhattan this past summer.
Among the artists who performed at Bryant Park was Sinkane, whose rapturous hybrid sound is laced with percussion-heavy Sudanese pop, electronica, funk, and free jazz. Sinkane bandleader Ahmed Gallab was excited to take part in Citywide. “It’s a way to be involved in the community, to connect with the people in this city,” he says. “It makes me feel like I’m part of a beautiful legacy,” he adds. “These events showcase New York’s vibrant confluence of cultures and art. People can explore New York City and see all of the amazing creativity that exists here. It helps open the minds of everyone who comes.”
The participating artists aren’t the only people who get caught up in the Citywide spirit. Those associated with the many diverse venues presenting the free shows are also thrilled to be a part of a program that helps make New York what it is. For Meredith Walters, director of arts and culture at the Brooklyn Public Library, Carnegie Hall Citywide is about more than a good party (although it is certainly that, too!).
“These concerts break down barriers—the financial barrier, most obviously, but also aesthetic,” Walters says. “My guess is a lot of attendees suddenly find out they are fans of Sudanese pop, or Slavic party music, or Béla Bartók—they had no idea before they heard it at a free Citywide show! It’s a boon for the venues as well, as it brings new audiences who might otherwise not visit. Experiencing beautiful art together strengthens our sense of community at the neighborhood level up to the city level.”
“Music connects people in joy, and the Citywide series connects people to the music,” says Hazmat Modine’s Schuman. “Music is a celebration of life. The beauty of music is that no matter what language one speaks or where one is from, one can share feelings directly and in real time together. This is more important than ever. It is a true gift, and it connects all of us in a real and tangible way. It is about sharing, empathy, self-expression, and community. Often people come who wouldn’t normally come to a concert, and they can be exposed to different forms of music from other cultures and areas of the world—all while in their own neighborhood.”