28 AUGUST 2019 / Find Yourself Dozing Off during their Concert? They’ll be Thrilled.

At some point, we’ve all had the experience of listening to a song that resonates so deeply it feels it must have been written just for us. For kids whose parents take part in Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project, this may actually be the case.

The Lullaby Project empowers new parents to write original lullabies, tailor-made for their children. The project pairs Carnegie Hall teaching musicians with recent or expecting parents in homeless shelters, correctional facilities, refugee camps, foster care, healthcare contexts, and elsewhere. Through the process of creating a personalized lullaby from scratch, in which parents reflect on what they wish for their children, the project aims to deepen the bond between parent and child and support the health of the mothers who take part.

The project began in New York City in 2011 through the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall, one of the United States’ premier music institutions. In 2018, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) made a two-year grant to support the project. Through partnerships with local organizations around the world, Carnegie Hall has shared the project from Australia to South Korea to Greece, and beyond. In North America, coverage through partner organizations extends from the eastern edge of Newfoundland in Canada to Anchorage, Alaska. So far, lullabies have been written in more than 20 different languages, and in this season alone, parents collectively created more than 600 lullabies.

In Greece, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki implements the program in the country’s second city, while El Sistema Greece carries it out in Athens. El Sistema Greece, which has repeatedly appeared at the annual SNFestival, has also brought the Lullaby Project to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Athens two years running. El Sistema focuses on the power of music to foster social inclusion, working on the project with parents who are refugees, hail from a variety of Athens neighborhoods, and are incarcerated at the Thebes Women’s Correctional Facility. At the Thebes facility, children under the age of three live with their mothers, and SNF recently made a grant to help equip a creative play space for kids at the prison.

The 2018-2019 season of the Lullaby Project came to a close with concerts celebrating the lullaby creations—and their creators. At the end of May, a concert at Carnegie Hall presented lullabies written this season in New York, Maine, Texas, Florida, and Toronto, as well as one written near Athens in collaboration with El Sistema Greece. Then, in June, the lullabies created through the El Sistema-Carnegie Hall collaboration in Athens were performed in free concert at the SNFCC’s Alternative Stage, at which an excerpt of the earlier Lullaby Project concert in New York was streamed.

Sample a selection of songs, linked below, from the performance at Carnegie Hall below, or dive right in to the full concert.

Ten Toes Down for You
By Alicia, with teaching artist Saskia
For many parents, the lullaby-creation process begins with writing a letter to their child. The letter Alicia wrote to her son Elijah ended with an expression that teaching artist Saskia Lane hadn’t heard before: “ten toes down for you.” Alicia explained to Saskia that it means standing strong for someone else.
Read the lyrics

My Beautiful Young Man
By Janayha, with teaching artist Juana
Janayha, at the concert with her son Liam, who she says is “the part of me that I was able to give to the world,” performed her lullaby herself.
Read the lyrics

Baby Boy Bryce
By Kiana, with teaching artist Jean
Not all lullabies are made to lull. Kiana, who worked with teaching artist Jean Rohe at Riker’s Island, New York City’s main jail, wanted a lullaby that would reflect her two-year-old son Bryce’s energetic personality.
Read the lyrics

Lorin na min
An anonymous couple, with teaching artist Sun Tailor
Drawing inspiration from an old lullaby sung by one of their grandmothers, this song was written in the Skaramagas refugee camp near Athens by a young Syrian couple, collaborating with teaching artist Sun Tailor through El Sistema Greece.
Read the lyrics

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