Posts

[UPDATE] Anniversary Celebration Video Concert Presentations Begin

On January 11, 2021, our 5th Anniversary Celebration Video Concert made its debut at Bath Medium Institution, where Looking at the Stars presented its first ever live classical music gift to Correctional Service Canada five years ago. This international production, featuring our Founding Artist, Lukas Geniušas, includes an introduction by former inmate, James Ruston, and closing remarks by our Founder and CEO, Dmitri Kanovich. We wish to extend our sincere gratitude to Warden Ryan Beattie, Assistant Warden Gordon Zuber, the institution’s Information Technology team, and everyone who cooperated to make this presentation available to the prisoners at Bath.

This is the first in a series of video concert presentations that will be presented at a number of Correctional Service Canada institutions over the coming weeks and months. Although current COVID-19 restrictions prohibit us from organizing more of our previous live concert presentations for the foreseeable future, we hope that this video concert presentation, and others we hope to create in the year ahead, will serve to bring a glimmer of hope and dignity to those who suffer the double isolation of incarceration and pandemic protocols.

[UPDATE] We have received more than a dozen written responses from prisoners at Bath Medium Institution who attended these first screenings of our 5th Anniversary Celebration Video Concert. We were particularly moved by this one.

Like most not-for-profit organizations in Canada at this time, our ability to raise funds to support our work has been severely constrained. If you would like to assist us with the funding requirements to produce these alternative video concert presentations, please consider making a donation on our CanadaHelps donation page or visit our GoFundMe project. Your support is essential to the success of our mission.

Classical music triumphs over despair

We are unique. We gift Classical Music to those who need it most and expect it least. We are not pursuing photo opportunities. We are committed to bring dignity and hope to our audiences on a regular basis. Since 2015 we have gifted 49 classical music concerts to almost 3,500 inmates of federal correctional institutions & 1500 residents of long term care institutions in Canada. Our performers include internationally acclaimed musicians such as virtuoso violinist Maestro Gidon Kremer, pianist Lukas Geniušas, Chamber Soloists of The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, violinists Jonathan Crow, Barry Shiffman, cellist Joseph Johnson and others.

If you love classical music and are compassionate, this unusual video presentation may inspire you.

Dmitri Kanovich, Chairman, Founder and CEO
Looking at the Stars Foundation

 

[VIDEO] Maestro Gidon Kremer at Pacific Institution Abbotsford BC

“Music is something that spreads positive emotions. I think music is something that can give warmth to everyone in trouble, in prison or not in prison,” said 72-year-old Kremer. “I’m happy to have been here.”

CBC Reporter: “Next time If someone asks you to play in a prison?”

Kremer: “I would go immediately….”

CBC’s Michael Enright provides exceptional coverage of our recent Millhaven event

On October 11, 2019, Looking at the Stars presented a piano trio at Millhaven Maximum Security Institution. It was our third visit to Millhaven and the FIRST to be recorded by a major media outlet. CBC Radio One The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright created an extraordinary recording of the event, including interviews with Millhaven’s Warden and some insightful commentary from inmates.

CBC has also posted Michael Enright’s personal essay on his experience here. (Click to open in a new tab)

We are sincerely grateful for Michael’s attention to our work and very impressed with the technical abilities of his sound crew, who recorded this classical music event in Millhaven’s gymnasium to produce a recording of amazing quality!

Please share this post with your friends and family. It is an excellent summary of everything Looking at the Stars is about! Donations to our work are gratefully received at https://lookingatthestars.org/donate/

NEW LOGO

Today we are more conscious about who we are and what we do – our purpose and our impact. Our new logo was designed to reflect just that – bringing Classical Music to the Hearts of the Neglected People in the Darkest corners, inspiring them to Look at the Stars again. I would like to thank my dear friend and extraordinary painter Mr. Mark Kanovich for producing the unique graphics and our marketing mentors and helpers from Barrett and Welsh for integrating the text. The previous transitional logo, created by our technical director Mr. Mychol Scully has served us well and we appreciate Mychol’s ongoing support.

Official Endorsement by CSC

We are very excited to present this official endorsement by Commissioner Anne Kelly, Correctional Service Canada. This formal acknowledgment of the value and impact our musical gifts provide to federal prison inmates is a welcome validation of Vision and Mission of Looking at the Stars Foundation.

Excerpt:

“CSC is pleased to acknowledge the laudable efforts of the Looking at the Stars Foundation’s classical music concert initiative in recognition of the value it has brought to the offender population.”

Read the full letter from Commissioner Kelly HERE.


Commissioner Kelly also sent a personal note to our Board Chair, Mr. Bob Rae.

Excerpt:

“According to CSC policy, the Warden is responsible for establishing procedures for the approval and implementation of special events. In light of the value this initiative brings to the offender population, I will be encouraging Wardens to consider welcoming a Looking at the Stars concert at their institutions.”

Read Commissioner Kelly’s letter to our Board Chair, Mr. Bob Rae, HERE.

BCI Medium concert was one of our most gratifying!

This final musical gift of the year was not part of our original schedule, but the overwhelming response to the November 24 event at the BCI Minimum facility reinforced the need to present this gift to their neighbours at the Medium facility. The String Trio from the TSO not only agreed to come back to Gravenhurst two weeks after the Minimum facility concert, but considerably enhanced the program.

The expected turnout of at least 150 inmates was promising. We decided to do the event in the gym as a result (chapel would not have accommodated such a large crowd), but an unforeseen last minute accident with the water supply and fire alarm system forced us to perform in the chapel – a great place for a chamber performance, but limited in space. A snowstorm warning was yet another reason to reconsider the idea, but we were already on our way to the event.

We ended up with approximately 100 inmates packed like sardines in the main chapel and another 20 standing in the kitchen.  Another 50 would keep coming in and out the front doors until the guards had to close them.

Prison world is very complex – relationships, clans, interests and power groups, habits, communications culture, tense and complicated relationships with staff. No different from the world outside, but not easy to detect and understand during such a short visit. As I performed a function of doorman, I could feel it all around me – suspicion and animosity, curiosity and frustration, anger and sarcasm, mistrust and exasperation. Very different from being a part of the audience inside the performance area… and a great lesson to learn. These observations relate to those inmates whose hearts we have yet to reach. There are many.

The extraordinarily rich program (from Mozart to Vivaldi, from Borodin to Bruch, from Tchaikovsky to Beatles and Carlos Gardel) was eclectic, but consistently a first class repertoire. I was later told, that the entire Muskoka region seldom (if ever) gets a chance to experience it. As always, the music was complemented by comments, stories and anecdotes – all about classical music.

Q&A was content rich. Inmates were well prepared. The conversation between musicians and the crowd was long and quite excellent. Katrina Chitty explained why she switched from violin to viola during the performance, and Mark Skazinetsky disclosed the origins of his medieval Italian violin. The inmates were fascinated by these stories.

As the snowflakes were elegantly falling and covering the ground, the encores – sounds from Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky) and Four Seasons (Vivaldi) – were transporting the prison and inmates to a New Years celebration party in tsarist Russia, closer to the magic of the Christmas tree and to the sunny Italian vineyards on the Mediterranean. It was a magical experience.

Happy Holidays to all.

First Anniversary Heliconian Hall Fundraiser

We had to do it, because we need to pay for the gifts we bring to our audiences. We could not have thought of a better way than to do it as we did it – ourselves. Approximately 75 supporters attended this fundraising recital in the delightful Heliconian Hall.  On behalf of the BCI inmates and Baycrest residents who have enjoyed Looking at the Stars concerts recently, we thank you for your contributions.

This was Lukas’ all Chopin evening. Our virtuoso was at his best and so was the audience. You could hear a pin drop during his performance. Founders and guests spoke warmly about the project, commemorating our first anniversary. We have a lot more to learn, but we will continue on this path. Sign up for our newsletter to receive advance announcements about future fundraising events.

Looking at the Stars is now a registered charity

We are excited to announce that Looking at the Stars is now an officially registered Canadian federal charitable organization. Donations to our project now qualify for a charitable tax receipt.

Looking at the Stars thanks Andrew Valentine, at Miller Thomson LLP for his invaluable assistance with preparing the required paperwork, his professional guidance during the application process and his personal commitment to our project. Thank you Andrew!

For tax purposes, our Charitable Registration Number is 77958 5298 RR0001.

Enthusiastic reception from inmates at Bath

We were so gratified and humbled to receive this letter from Mr. Joseph Joseph, the Inmate Committee Chairman at Bath Institution, part of Correctional Services Canada, in response to our Looking at the Stars event on December 29, 2015.

“Your event was an overwhelming success at Bath. As the Inmate Committee Chairman, I have heard nothing but positive reports, and the impacts on the men’s lives which were immediately visible will only be fully measured over the weeks, months and years to come.

“I must admit I attended your event with some skepticism, however, the overall night was a wonderful combination of music, and vision sharing.”

Letter from Bath (PDF 82Kb)