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If You Listen

Women composers and a chorus of girls make music that amplifies marginalized voices and highlights stories that need to be told.


Brooklyn Youth Chorus seeks support for If You Listen, a multi-composer project featuring works by women composers that aim to amplify the voices of women and members of all marginalized communities, written for the predominantly young female voices of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

If You Listen will feature songs by eight culturally-diverse women composers: Julia Adolphe, Olga Bell, Anna Clyne, Paola Prestini, Toshi Reagon, Shelley Washington, and Bora Yoon. The Chorus has commissioned this diverse group of innovative artists to interpret rich personal stories and historical narratives, and create music that explores issues of identity, race, sexuality, inequity, social disparity, and what it means to be an “other” in our society. With If You Listen, BYC will highlight the voices and experiences of women, aligning with an unprecedented societal focus on amplifying women’s experiences. If You Listen will touch on a broad range of women’s experiences and perspectives, from the growing power of young women and girls (even amidst a sexist backlash), to experiences of “otherness” and disconnection, reflections on recent events in Charlottesville, VA, and an exploration, inspired by James Baldwin and Martin Luther King, of how love can stand against destructive systems based in hatred, insecurity and fear.

If You Listen is the second project in Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ Silent Voices initiative. Silent Voices is a multimedia, multi-composer, and multiyear project that aims to give voice to those silenced or marginalized in our communities and harness the power of young people to be instruments of change. In May 2017, with New Music USA support, BYC launched the first evening of Silent Voices commissions at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Howard Gilman Opera House. If You Listen will build on the success of the Silent Voices initiative, and will extend the project to highlight a new group of underrepresented musical voices and cultural narratives.

Unifying this musically and topically broad work is the distinctively versatile and beautiful sound of the rigorously-trained singers – a chorus of culturally and socioeconomically diverse New York City young people, ages 12-18. Their varied experiences find expression as they develop their individual voices as the foundation of their identity and a means of amplifying the voices of others.

If You Listen will premiere at National Sawdust in Brooklyn on April 27-28, 2018. Following the premiere, BYC plans to incorporate works from If You Listen into our repertoire, and perform them at subsequent concerts throughout New York City, from the annual Spring Sings concerts for BYC families, to invited events citywide, amplifying the impact of the work.

Project Media

Brooklyn Bound, from Silent Voices, by Toshi Reagon
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Brooklyn Bound was written for Brooklyn Youth Chorus by proposed If You Listen composer Toshi Reagon. Reagon worked closely with the choristers to develop the libretto and rehearse the work, which explores experiences of displacement as a result of gentrification in Brooklyn. The performance of Brooklyn Bound by Brooklyn Youth Chorus provides an example of the performance quality and production values of the If You Listen performances, and provides a sample of Toshi Reagon’s music.

Whispers of Jasmine by Julia Adolphe
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Features: Julia Adolphe

Whispers of Jasmine is a choral work by If You Listen composer Julia Adolphe, set to poetry by Syrian poet Nahal Navidar. Jasmine is the national flower of Syria. Poet Nahal Navidar writes: “Whispers of Jasmine narrates the exodus of millions of Syrian refugees whose only comfort is the familiar scent of jasmine clinging to their clothes in their long search for a new home.”

This work demonstrates composer Julia Adolphe’s past choral work that gives voice to critically important social narratives.

Last Stop: Coney Island from Aging Magician by Paola Prestini
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Brooklyn Youth Chorus collaborated with composer Paola Prestini on the development, premiere and touring of Aging Magician. Aging Magician is an opera-theater work, created by Paola Prestini, Julian Crouch, Rinde Eckert, and Mark Stewart, that tells the story of Harold, an aging clockmaker near the end of his unusual life.

This project is evidence of past collaboration between Brooklyn Youth Chorus and If You Listen composer Paola Prestini, and provides a sample of her music for youth chorus.

Start and End Dates



Brooklyn, New York

Project Created By

Brooklyn, New York
The recent achievements of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus run the gamut from its 2005 Grammy® award for a recording of John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls; to its annual performances with world renowned orchestras (New York Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony); to collaborations with a range musical artists across a broad musical spectrum…

In Collaboration With

New York, New York
New York, New York
Brooklyn, New York


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