A Jackson Heights musician and educator will debut a program next month that recognizes the actual voices of homeless children in New York City.
Landon Knoblock conceived “A Voice for the Voiceless” over the course of a year and it will be presented at the Queens Theatre in Corona (14 United Nations Ave. South) on Friday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m.
The show features a set of 10 to 12 songs that last about an hour long, according to Knoblock, who currently composes music for film and television and runs a private music teaching studio. Afterward, there will be a short Q & A session where the audience will get an opportunity to learn more about the show.
“We had over 15 children participate in the music making sessions. Some of these children wrote poetry, others participated in conversations, and still, others just had fun on the microphone. Most of the students were Queens residents, but some of them often transitioned between boroughs, from Brooklyn, moving through Queens, into the Bronx, and maybe back.”
Knoblock said that as a relatively new Jackson Heights resident, he wanted to find a way to “engage with and give back” to his community through music and education. He first became interested in the topic of homelessness after reading reports of the rising rate of homelessness and housing instability among Queens’ public school children, including the lesser-known topics of shelter accessibility, doubling up and transitory housing.
“When reading what our elected officials were saying, what papers were writing, I felt like I never heard from the children themselves. I wanted to find a way to give these children a voice through music. More specifically, I felt I could create music with their voices, through recordings of their voices. These recordings would be the basis of the songs and could share their thoughts, feelings and stories.”
Knoblock was awarded a commission from the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) Artist Commissioning Program, allowing him to carry out the project. With the help of QCA art producers, he was able to connect with organizations that were engaged with the homeless community and pitched the idea of hosting creative music-making sessions for children in their programs.
“I took these recordings of their voices and began composing music around them. Sometimes I would deconstruct the voices to create new sounds,” Knoblock said. “Other times, a student would be inspired to write a poem, which I would set to music. Leading up to the performance, I will be working with a band, rehearsing the music and exploring creative ways to perform the voice samples. Some of the students will even perform their poetry with the band at the concert.”
He added that oftentimes, the children that he worked with, especially those in high school, were inspired by his “Voice for the Voiceless” project and wanted to pursue careers in art, architecture or poetry that would allow them to give back to the community.
Ultimately, Knoblock wants the audience to be aware of the children’s situation and come away from the show with a “renewed compassion” for them. He added that he hopes that the music challenges listeners to “reconsider how they define homelessness.”
“They attend public school right next to students from stable homes. They look and sound exactly the same,” he said. “Their predicament is made even more drastic by the fact that they do not have control over their situation, have no voice in the community and political system, and often have no adult advocate to protect them. We can engage with and support public schools and community organizations that address this population of children, and better give them an opportunity to grow beyond their current situation.”
To RSVP to the show, click here.