How one Boston Bride shared her wedding day with a group of Inner City Youth
Every human has the potential to meaningfully impact the lives of others. Some days it might be as simple as a smile or a hello. Other days you might have a seemingly bigger platform. You never know, however, which one of those experiences will have the greatest impact. The smile could be the one thing that person needed to decide to keep fighting for joy in this life. We live an increasingly connected digital world and yet, so many have never felt so alone. Your ‘hello’ might be the only positive words someone hears that day.
Yesterday was one of those incredible moments. The journey to that moment started a year ago in complete obscurity in the Boston Subway. A few days a week I play music in the subway to help raise money to support my music initiative with inner city youth. Four years ago, I launched Revolution of Hope, an after-school string orchestra program to give city youth access to a conservatory-level music program in their own neighborhood. We believe music can be a powerful platform for creating community while also teaching skills such as collaboration, creativity, teamwork, and grit.
While playing in the subway I have information cards about the orchestra. One day while performing in the South Station T-station, a woman walked up to me and said she was moved by my music. After looking over the information about the youth orchestra, her eyes became brighter and she asked if my youth orchestra might be available for her wedding. Her request took me by surprise. She just met me, and she had never heard the orchestra before. She wanted to share the most important day of her life with a group of young people she had never met. Growing up playing the violin she recognized the impact that it had on her life and it’s potential to affect others. She told me that it would be incredibly meaningful to have our youth performing for her ceremony.
After a year of emails, the big day arrived. My students put on their “Sunday best” outfits, concert black. They arrived early and by the time I got to the venue they were helping each other practice the music. Our students usually come to the program with no experience on their instruments. If they do come with prior knowledge, they have to agree to start over from the beginning so that all the students have the same foundation and technique. The students performing yesterday have been in the program as little as 2 weeks to as long as 2 years ago. The venue was a fancy Financial District restaurant that none of us had ever been to before. “Have you been here before Mr. France?” I was asked. “I couldn’t afford to even think about having a meal here,” I responded.
As the guests started to arrive and our prelude began, their focus intensified. When the wedding was over they weren’t relieved, they were inspired. They spent the cocktail hour improvising with our guest musicians who joined us for the wedding. Guests joyfully lingered while the students jammed.
If you’re a musician or have hired musicians for your wedding when the “gig” is over that is the end of that relationship. You might congratulate the couple and head out. But this wedding was different. The bride sent me an email a few weeks ago asking if the students could stay for the reception. I sent an enthusiastic yes.
It was so moving seeing these professionally dressed young people being welcomed into the embrace of this community. Guests of the wedding routinely came over and thanked the young people for playing. They felt important and fancy. It was heart-warming to watch them serve each other as each course of the meal arrived. The Bride came over to the orchestra and told them that their performance was the most special part of the ceremony.
“This is the first wedding I can remember going to because the first one I went to was when my mom and dad got married, but I was only one, so I don’t remember it.” -Roxbury Youth Orchestra member
“Is that Pizza?” “No, it’s called Bruschetta but yeah it does look like pizza.”
Music can open the world to young people. Yesterday’s experience brought my young people to a part of the city that maybe they don’t routinely visit, they met people they never would have met, ate food they never heard of, and were shown a more noble way to be human in an age of increasing division.
Before we left the reception, the mother of the Bride came over and slyly gave each kid a $20 bill. Their eyes lit up and huge smiles filled their faces. A few of the students then packed their instruments and headed home. A few others went back to our dressing room and took their instruments out and continued practicing for another 20 minutes.
We may never know the lasting impact of yesterday’s wedding, but I do know my students will never forget how they were loved.
David France is a Speaker, international writer, violinist, string pedagogy clinician, and Founder and Executive Director of Revolution of Hope, a music for social change initiative transforming inner city lives through the arts. He is about to release his first book “Show Up: Unlocking The Power of Relational Networking."