Story by Katie Simon
Photos by Erin Kennedy
More than 120 audience members filled the pews of First Church Cambridge, waiting for a concert unlike any other: every one of the nearly one hundred musicians on stage was a friend or relative of a refugee, or a refugee themselves.
Conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya addressed the crowd. “I’m not a politician; there’s only so much I can do to make an impact,” she said. “But one of the beautiful things about music is that it doesn’t matter what language you speak; we can come together and make music together.”
Yankovskaya founded the Refugee Orchestra Project (ROP) in early 2016, driven by her experiences as a refugee from Russia and the xenophobia she has observed in the United States. She saw music as a way to demonstrate refugees’ contributions to society, transcend cultural barriers and create a space of recognition and support between people from diverse backgrounds.
Today, the organization puts on concerts all over the United States — and like this one held in Cambridge, Massachusetts — they are all performed entirely by refugees, and friends and relatives of refugees, from around the world.
“I think it’s essential for us to recognize just how many immigrants and refugees and people from various countries and various cultures make this country what it is,” said Yankovskaya.
Katie Simon has been an entrepreneur since age 14 and a writer since she could hold a pen. Her personal finance and career writing has appeared on sites including Business Insider, The Independent, Lifehacker, FOX News, Health.com, and Refinery29.
Erin Kennedy moved to New York City in 2007 to attend The Fashion Institute of Technology. In 2011 she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA degree in Photography. Kennedy’s work has been featured internationally and exhibited in New York City.
Copyright © 500 Pens. July 2017.