After the deluge dropped on the city of Houston by hurricane Harvey, the lives of millions of our fellow citizens were severely affected. Some lost loved ones, and many lost everything they owned. In times of crisis, music can be a balm—but the flooding near our hall meant that the Houston Symphony Orchestra (HSO) had to cancel a number of our season-opening concerts. So we decided to bring the music to the people.
Over 25 musicians of the orchestra assembled in multiple chamber groups to perform at four different shelters a total of 20 times over the course of nine days. These shelters included the NRG Center, the George R. Brown Convention Center, the Family Residence (a Salvation Army location) and Harbor Light Men’s Shelter (also a Salvation Army location). The effort was spurred by former HSO violinist Rebecca Reale, just as she was on her way to her new job in the LA Philharmonic, who handed off the coordination to HSO piccolo player Kathryn Ladner. All groups were welcomed and thanked graciously by those who stopped to listen, who also let us know they were so grateful to be reminded that there was something to look forward to.
A woodwind quintet accompanied an effort to feed a portion of the community of Dickinson, a small city south of Houston that was devastated by the storm. Community members picnicked on free pizza at First United Methodist Church, while the quintet played for about two hours, and spent time with members of the Dickinson High School Band who came early and stayed late to listen.
We have plans to continue with these concerts into the future as needed and requested.
Internally, the HSO organization focused on creating a support system for the dozen or so orchestra members, staff, and chorus members whose houses and possessions were lost to the storm. Task groups were sent out daily to help those who needed it by cleaning up debris, ripping out carpet and drywall, and anything else that needed to be done. The organization has since created an employee assistance fund which all can contribute to, that will directly benefit those members of our Houston Symphony Family in need.
The Union has been deeply involved as well. As of this writing, the Musician’s Local 65-699 has received donations from three other AFM locals (Local 6 (San Francisco), Local 47 (Los Angeles), and local 30-73 (Twin Cities)) to help musicians in Houston. At the board’s last meeting we voted to send money to eight local members who have requested aid. The Houston musicians union has an established, long-standing fund, called the Tim Harris Fund, to help with Local members experiencing medical or other emergencies. Any individuals or locals so inclined can send relief money to this fund in the form of checks to the Local:
Houston Professional Musicians Association
Local 65-699 AFM
5771 Enid St
Houston, TX 77009
or can contact Secretary/Treasurer Bob McGrew to pay via PayPal at: email@example.com.
Note: Eric Arbiter is a former HSO ICSOM Delegate and Local 65-699 board member; Lauren Moore is the HSO Operations Manager.