Under the visionary leadership of Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti and inspired by luminary cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the former Judson and Joyce Green Consultant to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the CSO’s Negaunee Music Institute has produced a series of songwriting projects and Concerts for Peace in partnership with Purpose Over Pain as part of a suite of programs that educate audiences, train young musicians and serve the city of Chicago and the world through music.


Purpose Over Pain is a support group for parents of murdered children and an advocacy group which works for stricter gun control legislation. Members of Purpose Over Pain have written the songs featured in this project.

The Faith Community of St. Sabina is a Catholic church in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood. Led by Pastor Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina Church is also home to numerous programs that serve the community, including an employment resource center, a school, and an elder’s home.

The Strong Futures Jobs Program connects justice-involved, disconnected youth and young adults to full-time employment. The St. Sabina community provides mentoring and raises funding to support this jobs program. Proceeds from the Concerts for Peace go to expanding the Strong Futures program.

Austin Town Hall Park and Cultural Center, an anchor in the Austin community, has hosted songwriting sessions and performances as part of the initiative.


Yo-Yo Ma’s work as Creative Consultant to the CSO from 2009–2019 catalyzed this initiative. Ma’s multi-faceted career is testament to his enduring belief in culture’s power to generate trust and understanding. Whether performing new or familiar works from the cello repertoire, collaborating with communities and institutions to explore culture’s social impact, or engaging unexpected musical forms, Mr. Ma strives to foster connections that stimulate the imagination and reinforce humanity.

Sara Lee is artistic director of the Irene Taylor Trust, a London, England-based organization that works collaboratively with people to create original music. For over thirty years, Sara has led musical projects that have engaged young people, ex-prisoners who are rebuilding their lives on release and people of all ages in prisons.

Rex Horan is a multi-faceted musician and Project Leader for the Irene Taylor Trust. In this capacity has led over 150 musical projects for current and ex-prisoners throughout Great Britain and Wales.

Josh Fink is a composer, teacher, and bassist living in Montreal, Canada. Josh is an alumni of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and has been a teaching artist and composer for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 2014.

Mezzo-soprano Sarah Ponder enjoys a busy career as a soloist and ensemble singer with Lyric Opera Chicago, Chicago Symphony Chorus, Grant Park Chorus, Chicago a cappella, and many others. She has been a teaching artist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 2010.

Singer Journey Allison will be a senior at Holy Trinity High School in the fall. She is a member of the St. Sabina Youth Choir, plays the piano, and has played trumpet in Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras.

Takesha Mishé Kizart is a versatile actress and classical, jazz, soul, and pop vocalist. She has performed with orchestras and in opera houses across the world, and is a dedicated teacher as well.

Keanon Kyles is an opera singer whose career has taken him across the globe. When not performing he enjoys devoting his time to giving back to his community.

Chicago native Meagan McNeal is a vocalist with a rare combination of grace, power, and control. Through her artistry, she examines various genres critically and delivers unforgettable musical experiences.

Current and former members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago included Carmen Abelson, Hannah Christiansen, Queenie Edwards, John Heffernan, Elliot Lee, Tabitha Oh, Tara Lynn Ramsey, Liaht Slobodkin, Joy Vucekovich (violins); Rebecca Boelzner, Roslyn Green, Seth Pae, Bethany Pereboom (violas); Joe Bauer and Emmett Jackson (electric basses); James Hall (bass); Roslyn Green, Laura Yawney (guitars); Najette Abouelhadi, Philip Bergman, Denielle Wilson (cellos); Alexandria Hoffman, Christy Kim, Patrick Tsuji (flutes); Siyoon Park, Laura Yawney (oboes); Zachary Good, Juan Olivares (clarinets); Quinn Delaney (bassoon); Laura Pitkin (horn); Daniel Price (trumpet); Robinson Schulze (bass trombone); Pei-yeh Tsai (piano).

A team of designers and developers based in Chicago came together on nights and weekends in 2018 to build this website. The team includes Ben Callanta, Kate Guarna, Lindsey Jones, Ross Kelly, Gracelyn Newhouse, Patrice Payne, Vinithra Rajagopalan, Rick Ridgway, Brian Wandawa, Sheena Wang, and Paul Wiggin.

Todd Rosenberg has been recognized among the top tier entertainment and sports photographers in the city of Chicago. A native of Chicago, his impressive client list contains some of the the most distinguished entertainment organizations in the city including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance, Second City and the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Mat Lejeune is a recording engineer with the Chicago Recording Company and an invaluable collaborator on this project.