In 2001 when Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora were music students together at The Juilliard School, one of their most memorable moments occurred when they realized that the fire fighters at the station located just down the block from the school were deeply grieving the loss of eleven of their colleagues during the 9/11 attack in New York. 

They knew they wanted to do something meaningful for these brave fire fighters who had lost so much but were unsure what they could offer. And then the thought came to them – they could give them the healing gift of music! They literally knocked on the door and asked if they could sing to help ease their sadness.

From that moment on the two friends realized they wanted to find a way to channel the full potential of the arts for good.

In 2006, they co-founded Sing for Hope, a nonprofit with an essential mission: to harness the power of the arts to create a better world. The organization was launched based on their mutual unshakeable belief that the arts have an unmatched ability to uplift, unite, and heal, and that all people deserve access to them.  This unique nonprofit organization was founded on their passion and their vision of these seven key concepts:

The creative arts are a powerful conduit for hope.

  • Creativity is a fundamental human right.
  • Access to creative resources is not equitable today, but grassroots, artist-led action helps to level the field.
  • Sharing creativity in communities enriches artists in tandem with those they serve.
  • Sing for Hope programs are designed for the NY community institutional partners based on the needs of the individuals and communities served.
  • The transformation of individuals and communities is measureable.
  • Sing for Hope values integrity, excellence, passion, and positivity as key attributes of our organization and our work.

All the city was their stage

Before the pandemic swept around the world in early 2020, the organization had already developed a reputation as a significant force for changing lives by spreading the beauty of song across the New York area. They earned this prestigious recognition through the implementation of four critical programs that were designed to connect the musicians with the community in a profound way. From public spaces and parks to schools to hospitals and more, the organization engaged local musicians to deliver the beauty of the arts to underserved communities.

Their main focus was to build a presence and support these unique platforms: 

SING FOR HOPE PIANOS

Under this program, in excess of 500 pianos, which were designed and brightly painted by city artists, were placed in New York’s public spaces for all to enjoy, before being transported to permanent homes in schools and hospitals. The spontaneous piano playing across the region brought joy to more than 2 million New York residents and visitors. 

SING FOR HOPE YOUTH ARTS

Through this dynamic arts program, the organization was able to create a partnership with the New York City Department of Education, ultimately benefiting more than 100,000 students and community members in over 200 public schools.

SING FOR HOPE HEALING ARTS

By hosting collaborative concerts, bedside performances, and creative workshops, the musicians delivered the gift of music to 24,000 patients and caregivers at over 20 healthcare sites across the city.

SING FOR HOPE GLOBAL

An ambitious three-tiered initiative was created to bring creative arts programs to relief sites and mass transit hubs worldwide, while driving the international movement for increased inclusion of the arts in global convenings on social change.

And then along came COVID-19

For more than 14 years, Sing for Hope had been making a significant impact on the people who lived and worked in the city and surrounding areas, brightening the lives of thousands through their outreach. But when the Corona virus struck, the city was shut down and in-person contact immediately and abruptly ended for all.

Monica and Camille had to quickly find a path to achieve their mission- but in an entirely new way. As so many others were forced to do, these two unstoppable women found a way to pivot so that they could continue to leverage music to bring happiness to so many. In fact, because of the pandemic, more people were forced into isolated situations, heightening their need for connections and social interaction. In addition, when the city closed the doors to Broadway theaters, off-Broadway performances, the Metropolitan Opera House and every other venue, these talented performers were left with no alternatives for work or for generating income with no end in sight.

That was when the founders and co-directors determined they had to find an innovative approach to safely engage the musicians, create a new income stream, and deliver the healing power of music to all.     

New solutions for a new challenge

SING FOR HOPE at THE JAVITS CENTER

Through this remarkable, unorthodox program, Sing for Hope at Javits Center, is providing a powerful solution to the dual crisis of artist unemployment and patient/caregiver anxiety. 

As a result, there is now hope, instead of despair, as more than 450 top-tier professional musicians and 270,000 community members will be engaged throughout the spring of 2021, entertaining those receiving their vaccines as well as the care givers and organizers who are managing and coordinating all the activity taking place at the world’s second largest COVID vaccination site.

The seven-days-a-week program employs NYC’s finest musicians from Broadway, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Orpheus, American Modern Ensemble, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and more -- the vast majority of whom have had little or no employment since the shutdown in March, with every penny of funding going to artists' fees.

In addition to being one of the most significant employers of freelance professional musicians in NYC right now, the Sing for Hope at The Javits Center is one of the most-broadly covered arts stories in the U.S., with over 600 million media impressions already including CBS This Morning, Associated Oress, CNN, MSNBC, Univision, and NY1!

But their innovative approach doesn’t stop there!

With a commitment to finding new ways to help these elite musicians, Camille and Monica launched a wide range of new initiatives.

One of their most popular efforts is the Sing for Hope-Grams. Just like the once famous singing telegrams that were first offered by Western Union in 1933, anyone can now hire incredible musicians to create a personalized singing ‘gram’ to celebrate any occasion – or just for fun – sung by many of today’s opera stars and Broadway’s best talents.   The recipient has to just click the link! 

Undaunted by the restrictions that resulted from the pandemic, these two founders have also used technology to deliver an unparalleled experience by, uploading a selection of over 100 live performances, that provide free access to the arts for everyone from jazz to opera to Broadway hits, providing unlimited opportunities for enjoying the music individually or with family and friends. And the intergenerational implications are awesome!  Grandparents can expose their grandchildren to the magic of music, sharing the experience and then, after the performance, they can all ‘stroll’ into the virtual lobby for a chat with the artists.    With no cost and no commute, this calendar of live and interactive events is one of the silver linings brought by the cloud of Covid.

Or if that isn’t enough, how about sponsoring a musical Zoom party with a Sing for Hope local star on center stage?

With a dedicated staff and Board of Trustees, the leaders and influencers at Sing for Hope have been hard at work identifying alternative approaches to their traditional strategies. And they are enjoying great success in their twin goals of supporting New York’s vast community of musicians while also delivering on their promise of ensuring that everyone enjoys their fundamental human right of access to the power of the arts.

To learn more, please visit their website at www.singforhope.org