Creating Across Generations: The Sing for Hope Piano at Wallis Annenberg Genspace

An Intergenerational Community Arts Project

Sing for Hope’s Intergenerational Community Arts Program — a specific-community-responsive iteration of our time-tested Sing for Hope Pianos program launched in 2010 — brings wellness, creative connection, and self-determination to older adults and the young people who rely on them. The program is of particular importance right now, as it focuses on our most vulnerable communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While so much has shifted for all of us over the past two years, what has remained clear is that Sing for Hope’s programs continue to deliver hope, healing, and connection for people at all ages and stages. During the pandemic era (which, we hope, is in the process of becoming the post-pandemic era), we have witnessed our programming — and in particular, our Sing for Hope Pianos — become vital pieces of recovery infrastructure for individuals and communities young and old. The Sing for Hope Pianos empower people to return (safely and with rigorously designed COVID-19 protocols) to sharing and connecting in ways that feel elemental, empathetic, bridge-building, and deeply human.
An ongoing epidemic of isolation and loneliness has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among older adults. This is fertile ground for The Sing for Hope Intergenerational Community Arts Program, which engages older adults, youth, and the broader community in a vibrant act of creative communal upcycling that unites and renews entire neighborhoods. Notably, it centers our older adults, elevating them as they share their worlds, life experiences, and legacies with a younger generation ready to reflect, respond, and carry forth their learnings.

When Sing for Hope first heard of the brilliant new Wallis Annenberg Genspace launching in Los Angeles, our team was excited and inspired. Genspace’s mission of reimagining aging aligned beautifully with Sing for Hope’s creative aging programs developed during the pandemic to reduce social isolation and spark joy and wellbeing for older adults. Our SFH team was energized to explore a partnership with Genspace centering on our widely loved Sing for Hope Pianos, the West Coast iteration of which had launched in 2021, thanks in large part to the support of The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and The City of Beverly Hills. After spending our Spring 2022 season researching, planning, and finally creating, we are thrilled now to announce the special new Sing for Hope Piano created especially for Genspace!

The Genspace Sing for Hope Piano process began with interviewing and enrolling the optimal creative team members to power the project and bring this special musical artwork to life. The ideal Sing for Hope Artist Partner arrived in the person of Judi Donin, 82 years young and a veteran of the 2021 Sing for Hope Pianos program in Beverly Hills. As all who know Judi can attest, she is a force of nature whose inspiration, kindness, and wit are palpable. With an impressive creative arts career and experience in a variety of mediums, Judi is also a trusted teaching artist who we knew would be perfect to work with her young collaborators, the students from GRoW @ The Wallis, per our shared vision for this as an intergenerational initiative. If that wasn’t enough, a final great “kismet” detail was that Judi was a graduate of Juilliard, the “birthplace” of Sing for Hope on 9/11/2001 and the Alma Mater of Sing for Hope Co-Founders Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora. Judi had spoken movingly to Camille and Monica about how her studies as a dancer at Juilliard in the 1950s continue to inform her work as a painter and graphic artist today.

In discussions with Sing for Hope, Judi developed a design proposal that was both elegant and warm. In bright colors, her design referenced Los Angeles’ indigenous foliage, its iconic architectural history, and the concept of stained glass. Saliently, the design was conceived to be executed by Judi herself in tandem with her GRoW @ The Wallis student collaborators, who would be painting certain denoted color areas within the design. The approach was designed to allow for optimal student participation while controlling for a visually cohesive, graphically unified final product. The process was also aided from start to finish by invaluable contributions from our wonderful collaborator on site at The Wallis, innovative artist and educator Rachel Kilroy.

For over a decade, from the streets of New York City, to refugee camps in Greece, to cancer hospitals in Beirut, we have been honored to develop and refine the Sing for Hope Pianos program to deliver lasting impact in ways that even the most complex technologies often cannot do. The Sing for Hope Intergenerational Community Arts Program provides community members with a powerfully effective forum that highlights our shared humanity, creates spontaneous new connections, and reaffirms existing bonds. The result is thriving communities where older adults have a sense of purpose, transmitting their cultural traditions, living histories, and values to a younger generation. And their resulting Sing for Hope Pianos symbolize communities coming together to celebrate similarities over differences. 

In the words of our Sing for Hope Artist Partner Danielle M. Chéry, one of our talented Sing for Hope Artist Partners who will help facilitate the program at NYCHA Grandparent Resource Center sites in New York City in the 2022-23 season, “Art is life, and our communities thrive in creative environments.”

Thanks to the support and vision of The Wallis Annenberg Foundation, the Sing for Hope Piano at Genspace channels both musical and visual inspiration, and will enrich the lives of Genspace members and the greater community for years to come.