The Dream Unfinished: A Symphonic Benefit for Civil Rights

  • The Salvation Army's Centennial Memorial Temple 120 W 14th St New York, NY, 10011 United States

The Dream Unfinished: A Symphonic Benefit for Civil Rights

Artistic Director: James Blachly

Executive Producer: Eun Lee

New York, NY, July 17, 2015— “The Dream Unfinished: A Symphonic Benefit for Civil Rights” is a gathering of orchestral musicians, and nationally prominent artists and figures, who will join the chorus of calls for civil rights, social justice, and an end to systemic racism. With fiscal sponsorship from arts-and-humanitarian-aid organization Beats, Rhymes & Relief, proceeds from the concert will go to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Justice League NYC, and the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice. The concert will be held at Centennial Memorial Temple, located a few minutes walk from Union Square, and it will take place on July 17, a year following the death of Eric Garner, who was one in a string of homicides of unarmed African-American men which exploded onto the news in 2014. Notable speakers include artist and activist Molly Crabapple, the Center for Constitutional Rights’ director Vince Warren, political commentator Joy-Ann Reid, Broadway star Tanya Birl, and activist Erica Garner.

In the aftermath of last year, much of the rhetoric in this national conversation has been heated and vindictive. On opposite ends, there are cries of being victimized and demonized, and in such states of mind, constructive dialogue is not possible. The most ambitious goal of this concert is for music to function as it has for centuries: as a means for people to come together.

With a pay-what-you-can ticket price and an orchestra comprised of professional musicians from every borough of New York, as well as student musicians from notable programs such as Community MusicWorks, UpBeat NYC, and the Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids, we intend the concert to be a space for people of all backgrounds to gather, to show that the systemic discrimination of black lives matters to people of all colors and classes.  The orchestra will be led by conductor James Blachly and Grammy-award winning conductor John McLaughlin Williams, and the program includes works by conductor and humanitarian activist Leonard Bernstein, and feature “the Dean” of African-American composers William Grant Still.

The title of our concert comes from Plain-Chant for America, a poem written by Katherine Garrison Chapin Biddle—wife of Francis Biddle, attorney-general during the Nuremberg trials— and orchestrated by William Grant Still. Our title also invokes the powerful speech Martin Luther King Jr. delivered in Washington D.C. more than 50 years ago. As the years between Reverend King’s speech and our present day have shown us, from every homicide that remains uninvestigated, to every look of distrust exchanged between civilians of color and law officials, we see sadly that Dr. King’s dream, and the American dream of equal opportunity and freedom to all, remains incomplete. Plain-Chant for America opens with the text:

For the dream unfinished out of which we came

We stand together.


It is for this dream that we have assembled. As we raise our collective voice in support of those who have been silenced or ignored; through music, we hope to inspire others to continue working towards a dream fulfilled.