Photos by: Jonathan Snyder
BMI Foundation (BMIF) grant recipient The Passerine Project hosted its third annual showcase, A Night of Poetry and Song, at the Brooklyn Collaborative/Brooklyn New School auditorium in New York City on Wednesday, December 7, 2016. Students from the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies (BCS) and its sister school, Brooklyn New School, performed twelve original songs based on poetry of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP). Founded in 2009 by American journalist and novelist Masha Hamilton, AWWP seeks to empower the voices and stories of women in Afghanistan. The Passerine Project was formed five years later as a kindred program to further amplify the voices of Afghan women and American youth through the art of songwriting.
BCS teacher Stephen Simons remarked, “It is so important at this time that we put the best face of our country forward to the young women and girls in Afghanistan who have the human right to tell their story.” Emmy-nominated BMI songwriter and founder of The Passerine Project, Shevy Smith, added, “This is a wonderful night celebrating what began three years ago, with the launch of the very first Brooklyn Passerine Project. We planted the seeds for art and advocacy and over time have witnessed tremendous growth in our young songwriters. Some of our students have become real leaders in the program and are going to go on to do great things with these skills. It’s an especially important time to be bridging cultures, and we have seen that cross-cultural collaboration creating songs is a natural way of making that happen.”
The Passerine Project is an intercultural partnership between composer/producer Shevy Smith, recording artist Kendall Custer, and the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, wherein students from the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies and the Brooklyn New School adapt poems written by women in Afghanistan into original songs. The project began with 35 students in its initial year, and received a $10,000 grant from the BMI Foundation in 2015 for its continuance and expansion. This year, 5th-8th grade students were joined by high school forerunners of the program for a total of 75 participants. Smith and Custer plan to introduce the workshop to other schools across the country as it develops in future years.
The BMI Foundation is a nonprofit organization, incorporated in the state of New York in February 1984, and dedicated to the creation, performance and study of music, in fields including but not limited to music education, the preservation of the indigenous American jazz form, and the creation and exposure to audiences of contemporary music, particularly in the areas of classical, jazz, and musical theatre. Tax-deductible donations to the Foundation may be made on our website. For exclusive news and content, follow @bmifoundation on Twitter and like “BMI Foundation” on Facebook.