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HearTOGETHER Podcast LIVE at the Perelman Theater for MLK Day 2022

Posted by:  Tori Marchiony, Host & Executive Producer, HearTOGETHER Podcast on January 13, 2022

The Philadelphia Orchestra knows that meaningful change must begin with deep listening. The HearTOGETHER podcast is but one way they’re doing just that. 

Every episode of the HearTOGETHER podcast is a space for brutally honest conversations about music, social justice, and the lived experiences that inform and drive artists, academics, and activists working towards a more equitable and inclusive future for music. Since launching the monthly interview series in October 2020, we’ve heard from industry trailblazers such as pianist Lara Downes, whose recording project Rising Sun resurrects great works by Black composers; bass-baritone singer Davóne Tines, who confronts racism with his work, which blends opera, gospel, spirituals, and personal experience; and Brandi Waller-Pace, whose non-profit Decolonizing the Music Room educates teachers on how to center BiPOC voices in their classrooms. We’ve also highlighted the stories of hometown heroes including Jeannine A. Cook, owner of Harriett’s Bookshop; Jillian Patricia Pirtle, CEO of the National Marian Anderson Historical Society and Museum; and Rev. Mark Tyler of Philly’s Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

All this in an effort to understand how the Orchestra can better serve and support diverse communities, inside and outside the concert hall. This might sound like a lofty goal, and certainly, no podcast could accomplish it in isolation. That said, when you consider HearTOGETHER within the universe of choices The Philadelphia Orchestra has made in the past few years, you’ll see a profound cultural shift towards community—one that is also reflected in the Orchestra’s new partnership with the Kimmel Center.

The Path Here

On June 6, 2020, the Orchestra was set to host a virtual fundraising gala called HearNOW. But on May 25, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis by Police Officer Derrick Chauvin, and protests to end police brutality and racial injustice broke out worldwide. The Orchestra knew right away that the show could not go on as planned, and HearNOW became HearTOGETHER: A Healing Conversation in Music and Words, a concert and conversation dedicated to the value and dignity of all Black Lives, featuring Wynton Marsalis and Valerie Coleman.

Unwilling to abandon the important dialogue around inclusion, diversity, equity, and access, the Orchestra then turned HearTOGETHER into a monthly series featuring live panel discussions with industry leaders like Afa Dworkin of The Sphinx Organization. I came aboard in August to produce the third installment, honoring the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which gave some women in the U.S. the right to vote. Composer Jennifer Higdon and opera singer Angel Blue were wonderful interviewees, but I felt strongly that in order to facilitate the kind of vulnerable, honest dialogue The Orchestra was really interested in, it would be wise to move to a more private format. The HearTOGETHER podcast was born.

HearTOGETHER Podcast

From the start, HearTOGETHER has done a few things differently than most media products I know of. First, guests are paid for their time with money, not “exposure.” Second, guests are invited to review their episode and given carte blanche to make changes. Only a handful of edits have ever been requested, and it’s well worth it to know that interviewees feel good about how their stories are being told—they are not “subjects,” they’re collaborators. Third, I do not create in a vacuum where my own biases and blind spots can run amok. In season 1, I was supported by consulting producer Sofiya Ballin, a journalist with extensive experience writing on Black identity. For season 2, I’ve been assisted by an editorial council, who you can get to know in their own words below.

Get to know, TIM GERMAN

  1. Who are you and what experiences and expertise do you have that made you a good fit for the editorial council? I am an actor, musician, and professional wrestler from Baltimore, Maryland. Throughout my life I’ve been an equity theatre performer and technician on all levels of the craft. Given the amount of contact I’ve had with not just traditional academia, but also unconventional artistic settings, I was well suited for the editorial council.

  2. What attracted you to this project? The opportunity to hear the perspective of minority and nontraditional voices in the music space. It's always a gift to learn from new perspectives and be able to offer those perspectives to others.

  3. What do you aim to contribute to the podcast? Interesting, informative, and engaging artists who our audience may or may not know.

  4. What do you hope the podcast accomplishes in the world? I really want to help folks see how classical music is relevant outside of formal settings, in more mundane aspects of life. I've personally found a better sense of classical music (from composition to performance) in everyday life. 

  5. BONUS: What has been your favorite episode so far and why? Honorable Elizabeth A Baker. She is just such a larger-than-life figure. It is very fun to engage with people who feel as big as Paul Bunyan in this classical world.

Get to know, NOEL DIOR

  1. Who are you and what experiences and expertise do you have that made you a good fit for the editorial council? I was raised playing classical and jazz piano, singing in competitive choirs, and accompanying piano for choirs and show performances. As an adult, I’ve spent years building large-scale art projects for several major festivals across the country. I’m engaged in mental health movement outreach and crisis management and learning holistic medicine and massage to better care for people in my communities. These experiences have served in bringing me here, but I don’t currently identify with them. I have never truly found myself in my own accomplishments or the roles I’ve played.

  2. What attracted you to this project? It is when I’m sitting inside the experiences of others that I feel the most myself. Listening to their stories and seeing myself mirrored in their highs and lows. Witnessing and carefully holding each individual piece of humanity. Revering all the ways they can be perfectly imperfect. Searching for some obscure concept of my own truth within them.

  3. What do you aim to contribute to the podcast? I see "truth" as a puzzle made up of pieces of a collective experience. Each person holds their own unique and significant piece to that puzzle. I understand that we will never have all the pieces, yet I work to serve an overall process of putting together a "bigger picture," a vision, with other “piece-seekers” like me. I support people in having the choice of whether or not they wish to contribute their own experience. Regardless, I intend on doing everything I can to create opportunities for those who are searching for a place where their own piece fits within the collective. 

  4. What do you hope the podcast accomplishes in the world? I hope HearTOGETHER is able to demonstrate the value of dropping judgments of wrong or right, good or bad, that leave no room for creativity. I hope we make room for nuance and embody the grace needed to invite people to share their experiences without fear of not being accepted as human. Through HearTOGETHER, I hope to contribute to the movement of people breaking the binaries that keep us from building greater visions of what truth, art, love, and community can be.

  5. BONUS: What’s your favorite episode? I’m not the biggest fan of favorites. I often feel that comparison in preference limits my capacity to truly be present with the experience I’m having. I have found something significant and personally profound in each interview I’ve had the opportunity to work on.


What’s Next

On January 17 at 11:30 AM, in The Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater, you can see the HearTOGETHER podcast LIVE for the first time. I’ll be hosting a panel event, “From Programming to Progress,” featuring a fabulous roster of women: pianist Michelle Cann, Dr. Fredara Hadley, Ethnomusicology Professor at The Juilliard School, and Dr. Cassandra Jones, Administrator & Senior Directoress at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church. Plus, an individual spotlight interview, “The American Dream vs. MLK’s Dream” with Andrea Custis, President & CEO of Urban League Philadelphia. The event will be followed by The Orchestra’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Tribute Concert (featuring February's podcast guest, master storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston). 

I’m incredibly proud of HearTOGETHER, not just for the quality of work that I believe we are producing and the brilliant voices we are able to highlight, but also for what the podcast represents in terms of a sea-change for The Philadelphia Orchestra, and hopefully concert music at large. Through this project, I have begun to feel at home in a world that was once unfathomably intimidating to me, connected to the deep humanity in music I didn’t know could speak to me. I hope HearTOGETHER can be such an entry point for you, too.

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