Reflections on the Partnership Between the KCOHO and Miriam’s Kitchen
Since 2015, the musicians of the KCOHO have partnered with Miriam's Kitchen, a nonprofit working to end homelessness in DC. Since that time, nearly 2 dozen musicians have presented 10 dinnertime chamber music performances for the patrons of Miriam's Kitchen. Please consider a donation of time or money to Miriam's Kitchen to help them in their valuable work.
By Ashley Booher, bass clarinet KCOHO
I have had the pleasure of playing chamber music at Miriam’s Kitchen during dinner three times. Each time I was heartened by the enthusiasm and excitement of the patrons, and also really humbled by the experience. When we play at the Kennedy Center, our audience “knows the drill”—they are knowledgeable, long time concertgoers. Most of the audience members at Miriam’s have never stepped foot inside a concert hall. However, there are some who were involved in the arts before their life unfortunately made a wrong turn. Often a diner will be familiar with the work of Mozart, Beethoven, or another composer we are performing, and they are curious to learn more about the music and the instruments we’re playing.
My favorite part about playing at Miriam’s are the interactions I have with the patrons. Someone once asked me if we played at Miriam’s so we could get the tax write off. I told him “No, we just do this for fun!” I feel our society holds negative views of homeless people, and tends to shun them. Unfortunately most of us never really have meaningful interactions with these people in our everyday lives. Homeless people are not to be avoided. They are people whose lives have taken a bad turn, who have developed drug habits, or were born with disabilities and have a hard time finding steady work. I remember a man who had been an amateur saxophonist around DC before he became homeless. Sadly I think he had to sell his saxophone and hadn’t played in years. When he heard my husband, a saxophonist who performed with us that day, play, it brought back many memories for him. It was really nice to hear his stories. I’m grateful to have had the experience of playing at Miriam’s, and to meet people I would otherwise never have met. I’m so happy about the partnership between our orchestra and Miriam’s, and the opportunity we have bring music to such an appreciative audience.
By Margaret Dominguez, Senior Clinical Case Manager, Miriam’s Kitchen
We are very fortunate to have this relationship with the musicians of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. Ever since we started partnering, our guests have had the opportunity to be treated to beautiful music during dinner. This really enhances the dignifying and welcoming culture of hospitality that we strive to foster at Miriam's Kitchen. The guests (and volunteers!) that I speak to after a performance, have always enjoyed an evening of listening to beautiful music. Our guests, the majority of whom are experiencing homelessness, are treated to the same world-class experience that patrons of the Kennedy Center enjoy just across the street. For many of them, this is a unique opportunity. Now, many of our guests have become interested in the daily free Millennium Stage concerts at the Kennedy Center. I also appreciate the musicians’ openness in speaking directly with the guests, who often share their own memories of, or connections to music. The annual holiday music in December has become a nice, 3 year long tradition. These concerts highlight that music can be a powerful tool and language to bring so many different people together. https://miriamskitchen.org/