Los Angeles, CA

Skid Row Song Festival Aims to Heal the Homeless and Housed as One Uplifted Community

Elle Silver

The Urban Voices Project Open Mic at the Midnight Mission, Skid Row.Credit: author

On Sunday, June 12th, 2022, The Urban Voices Project and Skid Row Artists partnered up to create the first-ever music jam through pop-up open mics in six different parts of Downtown Los Angeles.

Called The C’mon, Sing! Festival, the event’s purpose was to bring the voices of Skid Row to other Downtown neighborhoods so the housed and unhoused could unite through the healing power of music.

Program volunteer Christopher Yraola said, “We’re sharing our human experience. This is a moment for us to share that joy together.”

Neighbors passing the pods were invited to engage in the six different open mics, backed by musicians from the program. The housed and unhoused of Downtown Los Angeles experienced this moment together.

One of the festivals open mics at the Farmer's Market on 5th St.Credit: author

The Urban Voices Project was first founded when Wesley Health Clinic reached out to the Colburn School of Music seeking to start a street choir for the residents of Skid Row. Soon, the project, led by Leeav Sofer, a choral instructor at the Colburn School, was holding choir meetings for Downtown L.A.'s unhoused community.

The aim of the project was to heal people who had been disenfranchised by homelessness through music.

According to The Urban Voices Project website, singing itself is a calming agent, regulating the heartbeat and triggering a relaxation response. Singing also helps improve posture, releases muscle tension, and reinforces a mind/body connection.

Ultimately, the purpose of the Urban Voices Project is to aid in the mental health of homeless people. Singing together eases isolation, encourages bonding, and is an antidote to mental illness.

Festival participants singing together in the Japanese garden.Credit: author

The festival ended at the James Irvine Japanese Garden at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Little Tokyo. Touted as one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens in the city, the housed and unhoused alike sang together under Sofer’s direction.

Leading the group in song, Sofer sang: “C’mon sing with your neighbors and friends. I want you to sing with someone you never met. I want you to sing to break those lines. I want you to sing till the end of time.”

This is the kind of song we need more of in this sprawling city where everyone—not just the unhoused—too often feels isolated and alienated.

*Title changed from "Skid Row Song Festival Aims to Cure the Mentally Ill Homeless and Uplift a Broken Community" to better reflect the purpose of the event.

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I write about dating, marriage, divorce, family, society, and the city I live in: Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, CA

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