[VIDEO] Our very own Lukas Geniušas performs via live stream August 25, 2020

Bravo to our Founding Artist, Lukas Geniušas , for his live stream performance at the 16th International Music Festival “Chopin and his Europe,” on the same stage in Warsaw, Poland, where he won Silver ten years ago in the Chopin International Competition. Looking at the Stars is humbled and honoured by Lukas’ continuing commitment to the Foundation’s mission.


Congratulations to Lukas Geniušas on new album release

We are pleased to promote the release of our Founding Artist, Lukas Geniušas. This new collection of Chopin performances is an important milestone for this extraordinary pianist.

Available now on Apple Music, iTunes and Spotify.

Chopin: Mazurkas & Sonate No. 3


Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in partnership with Looking at the Stars supports Maestro Gidon Kremer performance

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) published a press release about their support of Maestro Gidon Kremer’s performance at Pacific Institution Regional Treatment Centre in Abbostford, BC; Looking At The Stars first musical gift of 2020.

In their press release they provide this enthusiastic quote from Maestro Kremer himself:

“I am honored to support Looking at the Stars and its wonderful and important work with my performance at Pacific Institution Regional Treatment Centre. By performing works by Bach and Weinberg in the circumstances and surroundings of a prison, I will do my small part to bring humanity and art into the inmates’ everyday life. I am sure it will be a unique and special performance for me and hopefully an inspiring event for the audience,” said violinist, Gidon Kremer.

To read the complete release, please click here.

Millhaven Regional Treatment Centre

We are compelled to share this commentary from BeLinda Roscoe, Recipient of the Governor General’s Silver Academic Medal, B.A., B.N., R.N. A and Executive Director, Regional Treatment Centre Ontario

Thank you again for providing this wonderful gift of presence and music for our patients. While RTC may be the most challenging venue in which you have played I hope you found it welcoming and receptive to your gifts. We were very touched by a number of events.

One of the patients has never been known to smile and rarely talks to anyone. This man could not keep smiling with a large grin the majority of the production and he was apparently talking to the staff member beside him often. I am hopeful it was not too disruptive.

The patients appreciated the beautiful cards they were given and I am sure as you could tell by their response for many it had tremendous impact leaving them with a positive memory of the event. The words of encouragement reinforced by a painting will provide most with a long time of continued reflection. You have left behind thoughts, feelings and a sense of belonging for many patients. The pride they had in creating crafts for Andrea had a tremendous impact on them and changes a man I am sure.

Thank you again for this gift to the patients as well as the staff.

BeLinda Roscoe, Recipient of the Governor General’s Silver Academic Medal, B.A., B.N., R.N. A
Executive Director, 
Regional Treatment Centre Ontario

Warkworth Medium Security Institution with the TSO

Programme confirmed for October concerts at Millhaven Maximum and Bath Medium

Our Founding Musician, Lukas Geniušas, Receives Glowing Review in Quebec

We’re delighted to share this exceptional review by one of the most challenging Quebec critics about Lukas’s performance there last week.


English translation below:

The amazing recital of Lukas Geniušas at Pro Musica in December 2016 did not hold momentary grace. The 29-year-old Russian-Lithuanian pianist confirmed on Saturday in Orford that he is one of the few great keyboard lords. Geniušas is not an “excellent young pianist anymore”. He is a very talented artist, walking in the footsteps of keyboard alchemists named Arcadi Volodos or Sergei Babayan. We must bless what our era offers us. If we look back four decades, we certainly had huge pianists, like Arrau, Serkin, Guilels at the end of their career or Brendel and Moravec at the top of their art, but in the category of the magicians of sound, whose art and palette defied the understanding, alone, or almost, a young Romanian, Radu Lupu, appeared really singular. Perahia too maybe, but not at this level …

Today, the “unusual” side of Lukas Geniušas, particularly in relation to his age, is not a unique case. In the younger generation, Benjamin Grosvenor, Pavel Kolesnikov, Lucas Debargue and even Charles Richard-Hamelin, with whom Geniušas shares the destiny of having finished 2nd at a Chopin Competition (in 2010), is a much more interesting artist. as the laureate (Avdeeva in the case of Lithuanian).

An incredible sound palette

A recital by Lukas Geniušas is sound in the service of musical expression. It is, from this point of view, the antithesis of Olga Kern, who appeared in this room a few weeks ago, since the touch palette of Geniušas is infinite. While often very detailed pianists compensate for a lack of sound weight, Geniušas has an amazing density in the forte and the left hand. Note that the sound emission never gives the impression of verticality or “typing.”

In this game, everything is organically linked because nourished by a supreme art of phrasing and transitions. The miracle of Chopin’s 3rd Sonata, touched by a breath, is there. Who heard this sonata by Geniušas (in particular a 2nd fluid movement where the pianist seems to float on the keyboard), Richard-Hamelin and on the CD of Alexeï Volodin has probably made the tour of what was made more thought , more concentrated and more poetic in the last 20 or 30 years.

Everyone understood from Scarlatti Sonatas K. 544 and 450 that this artist was unconventional, in his manner of touching the piano and hemming phrases. In the second part, Geniušas explored Tchaikovsky’s folklorism and the “human-faced minimalism” of Leonid Desyatnikov (born in 1955), a Ukrainian composer of his friends. Desyatnikov’s music explores atmospheres (No. 1), Ukrainian rhythms (No. 4 and No. 12), memories of French music (No. 15 and left-hand ones in No. 17) through sometimes simplistic cells (Prelude No. 11). ‘to the trepidation of Prelude No. 23 placed at the end of the selection.

Orford Music Festival, Saturday, August 10, 2019
Recital by Lukas Geniušas
Scarlatti: Keyboard Sonatas K. 544 and 450
Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 3
Tchaikovsky: Dumka
Desyatnikov: 12 Preludes, excerpts from 24 Preludes “Songs of Bukovina”

[UPDATE] Spring Meditation Fundraising Concert

Looking at the Stars is pleased to present our first fundraising concert of the year, in the historic Grace Church on-the-Hill in Forest Hill, Toronto. Since our founding in 2015, we have provided 19 gifts of live classical music to Canadian federal prisons and 11 concerts to hospitals or long-term care facilities. These events are supported exclusively by patrons and private donations from caring individuals like you who recognize the power of live classical music to heal and inspire. Please consider purchasing concert tickets with optional donation to allow us to continue providing these important musical gifts to those who need them most. Donations of $100.00 or more qualify you as a VIP attendee to enjoy a post-concert meet & greet with the Performing Artists and Looking at the Stars Executive.

As part of this evening’s experience, our Artist In Residence, Mr. S Gordon Harwood, will create a new painting inspired by the evening during the performances, which will be auctioned to the highest bidder. Mr. Harwood has created numerous paintings during concert events in several prison institutions, which were then donated to their respective Inmate Committees.

As a registered charity we can provide a tax receipt for the donation portion of your purchase. To receive a charitable tax receipt for the donation portion of your purchase, please email info@lookingatthestars.org with your request. Charitable Registration No. 77958 5298 RR0001.
Tickets go on sale February 1, 2019. Purchase your tickets at www.lookingatthestars.org/tickets.

[REPORT] Bath Medium Security Institution 20181019

Bath Medium Security Institution, October 19, 2018

String Trio, Katrina Chitty, viola: Igor Gefter, cello: Mark Skazinetsky, violin

Our fourth performance at Bath followed three hours after the historic event at Millhaven. The difference in the environment and the reception was striking. Warden Ryan Beattie personally greeted our group at the gate.  Ryan then gave a brief presentation about the institution to our group, which was smaller than at Millhaven (5 volunteers had to leave), but stronger, because Mr. & Mrs. Bob Rae had joined us for this performance.

The place was packed with our “regular” fans and some newcomers – about 80 inmates filled the chapel. Interaction with them started as soon as we entered the premises and continued throughout the evening.  I was looking for a familiar face of an inmate, whom I was corresponding with for almost a year, and finally managed to find him at prayer in the chapel. He was happy to see me, but refused to join the event, respecting the religious tradition of Shabbat. My argument of him being a sick man, needing care (giving him exemption from the rule of Jewish law) has convinced him to come. “Don’t improve on Mozart. Mozart is perfection!” he said. His mother used to admonish him when he was playing flute in his young happier days in Vienna, Austria. Good advice to many professional musicians.

After a short introduction from Ryan and without the usual opening remarks from Dmitri, who has chosen to read from Les Miserables as opposed to speak about his own falls that evening, our musicians started the program, which was presented at Millhaven earlier that day. Stan has created one of his best works ever – bright and optimistic – I think the general positive atmosphere played the role. But you really never know, what and when inspires artists. The atmosphere was as always relaxed, but dignified, respectful and engaged. Again and again we could hear the dust settle as the audience listened:

“I always thought only snobby, educated, rich people listened to classical music. That’s why I could not identify or enjoy it immensely. I realize now, that music is a universal language, lifting us up above our circumstances and our isolated negative feelings…Sometimes this place (prison – dk) is so hopeless and doing a life sentence I was resigned to dying here. This music gave me hope and faith in someday getting out of here permanently.””

“…I have known federal incarceration for forty three years…..Tonight, my eyes witnessed for the first time in my life , classical music being played alive. My ears heard the gift of soul, which felt as if divine caress manifested all limitation of mortal restrictions. How can words reflect such joining of meaning?Intersecting to reveal truth in its purest conception. Your gift surpassed all perimeters of what may define music. Grace, elegance, passion, all fail to encompass the infinite reality experienced.”

“..This may sound silly to some people but the truth is that your…. sound of music seems to give me a sense OF HOPE. … I wish everyone in this world could have the opportunity to hear just a little of your music, I truly believe it could help heal and mend pain and sorrow, and even hate !”

“ …I am doing concurrent life and indeterminate sentences…My optimism increased after the concert, especially for having Hon. Bob Rae in the audience. It was unbelievable that I would be shaking hands with Hon. Mr. Rae… The last time I saw him was on TV at the time when he delivered his report for the UN about the Myanmar Rohingas.””

“ …Don’t improve on Mozart. Mozart is perfection! – my mother used to admonish, when I was 10 and played flute in Vienna…”

A standing ovation and a and enthusiastic encore – the deeply emotional and electrifying Hungarian Dance by Brahms, requested earlier by one of the inmates – concluded the performance and interaction with our inmate audience continued intensely for another 30 minutes. People just wanted to express themselves and be heard. There were so many… Ryan videotaped the entire event – I am hoping to receive the first ever video record of one of our concerts at a CSC facility.

Numerous testimonials continue to pour into my P.O. Box. – our music gift has reached the hearts of many men at Bath Institution.


[REPORT] Millhaven Maximum Security 20181019

Millhaven Maximum Security Institution

String Trio, Katrina Chitty, viola: Igor Gefter, cello: Mark Skazinetsky, violin

According to Bill Rasmus, Director Reintegration Services at CSC NHQ in Ottawa and an attendee of the October 19 event at Millhaven, Looking at the Stars may have made history on October 19, 2018. We presented the FIRST classical music concert in a maximum security prison in Canada.

We must thank Warden Crystal Thompson for making it happen. Crystal witnessed our performance at Collins Bay Medium Institution last year, where the same String Trio presented a different program (Crystal was then a Warden there and she liked what she saw). So we did not have to hard-sell our proposal to Millhaven.

The real challenge was to get the inmates to show up. I took two advance trips to Millhaven trying to solicit interest. The prospects looked bleak – I was unsuccessful in meeting inmates and Paul Chaves, Social Program Officer assigned to manage the event was not very optimistic either. “…in 27 years of my work at CSC I have never seen anyone even attempting to do something similar and I do not think it will fly…”. Paul was trying to prepare me for an unpleasant  surprise, but after communicating the news about the upcoming event to inmates, 54 (!) signed up. Paul was shocked. My second visit on October 17, coincided with Paul Bernardo’s parole hearings at the same location, at the same time, but we did not notice Mr. Bernardo in the audience two days later.

So on the day of the event I arrived at Millhaven pretty optimistic. Then just about few minutes prior to starting the programme we were told that the event may be cancelled, because of an internal incident. All of us  – six volunteers, the trio of musicians, the painter, Bill Rasmus, Peter Bennett, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Ontario and myself were caught completely off guard by the news. Fortunately, at about 3:30 pm 26 inmates showed up. While we only had 60 minutes left for our performance, we did succeed in delivering our message, the music and… the painting.

Our String Trio was under enormous pressure, hence was at its best, presenting an absolutely special program, prepared for this particular occasion – starting with feisty Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmuzik, then continuing with Bach, then with profoundly sad and beautiful Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, sombre and philosophical Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, magnificently melodic and unforgettable Shostakovich’s Romance from the Gadfly, unexpected unforgettable Eagles hit Desperado and wrapping up with remarkably unique melodic and folksy Jay Unger’s Farewell.

The program was simply extremely generous and outstanding and each of the musicians was phenomenal – I seldom use these adjectives, but believe me,  they are well deserved.

The audience, which consisted of mostly young men, was attentive, quiet and ultimately very positive. All the men listened very intensively, with interest and rewarded the musicians with genuine admiration and applause. Several testimonials speak for themselves:

“I loved classical music before your visit and I love classical music after your visit;  I had no future before your visit and I have no future after your visit…”

“I always hope for a better future and your visit made me feel, like I am headed in the right direction…It was a splendid vacation on the other side of the tracks.”

”It’s very touching, inspiring, beautiful… I am very grateful to have experienced it…”

”The rhythm of my hope beats like a drum, For I believe the best is yet to come.”

The prison, empty and grim, its gym with naked walls with hidden severe surprises, gloomy silence, tension in the air, and then an invisible, but easily felt wall separating us-visitors (“the winners”) and them-inmates (“the losers”) and a profound understanding of the uniqueness of this once-in-a-lifetime experience of trying to knock this wall down in less than an hour and creating a common space – a bridge to cross.

The prison bell rang and inmates were sent back to their cells just as this wall started to come down.