By Naeisha Rose
Winners of the first Artist Commission Program from the Queens Council on the Arts will premiere their work throughout September at Queens Theatre, Viva la Comida and the Jamaica Performing Arts Center.
The Queens-based artists produced two musical projects and a play within the span of nine months with a $10,000 grant from QCA and will open up their work to the public this week and on Sept. 30, according to spokeswoman Kelly Olshan.
The two musical projects premiering this week are by Jackson Heights residents Landon Knoblock and Neil Padukone.
Knoblock, a composer, created the social justice music project, “A Voice to the Voiceless,” drawing inspiration from the words and ideas of homeless youth throughout the city in public schools.
“I hope this music can give a voice to children who really don’t have a voice or might not have advocates within our system,” Knoblock said. “The issue of homelessness is usually just pictured as a panhandler on the subway or somebody sleeping under the train tracks, but housing instability is far more complex than that and can affect people that you might not realize.”
His composition — a collection of vignettes — frames the stories of the city’s homeless youths to a mix of rock, electronic jazz, hip-hop and spoken word with modern trap beats. It will be performed at Queens Theatre — located at Corona at 14 United Nations Ave. S.
While putting together his composition, Knoblock engaged with housing unstable students at public schools. He introduced them to music-making technologies and encouraged them to share their own words through song and poetry, which will be woven into the composition.
Knoblock will play the piano and keyboards and will be joined by guitarist Pavel Rivera and drummer Bryan Bisordi Friday at 8 p.m. A reception will be held prior to the event at 7 p.m.
The second musical piece commissioned by QCA — set to debut Sept. 15 — is “Salsa Masala: A Jackson Heights Block Party,” created by composer and performer Padukone.
Viva La Comida Festival will host the festive intercultural musical experience from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at 82nd Street and Roosevelt Avenue.
“Walk down Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, and you hear Bhangra and Bollywood on one side of the street, Cumbia and Bachata on the other,” Padukone said. “What would happen, I wondered, if we all brought our instruments and had one big block party? This project would provide the soundtrack.”
The block party will feature a six-piece Indo-Latin jazz-funk-hip-hop ensemble fusing bhangra with bachata, cumbia with dandiya, salsa with ragas, and music rooted from the streets of New York.
On Sept. 30, the play “It Can Happen Here,” will be performed at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center — located at 153-10 Jamaica Ave. — at 7:30 p.m.
The production comes from Judith Sloan, a playwright, actress and audio artist from Sunnyside.
The play is about one black and one white hairdresser observing the ever-changing neighborhood of Queens and embarking on their dream to sing while nurturing a community in the midst of a national political climate of chaos.
The story will reveal the journey of their customers, family members, and neighbors, as well as a DACA recipient, an immigration lawyer and an older man who lost everything to Hurricane Sandy.
Performing alongside Sloan are Meah Pace, Priya Darshini, Lisette Santiago and Emily Wexler.
For more information, contact Artist Commissioning Program Manager Kelly Olshan at (347) 505-3016.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose