Connecting through music

Creative Directors of HEARTBEAT, Gavia Lertzman-Lepofsky (left)
and Jessica Heaven are using music to bring the community together.| Photo courtesy of Gavia Lertzman-Lepofsky and Jessica Heaven

“I’ve witnessed first-hand the ability of music to bring people out of where they’re trapped and to bring people together,” says Gavia Lertzman-Lepofsky.

Lertzman-Lepofsky and Jessica Heaven are the creative directors behind HEARTBEAT, a musical event that aims to bring people from diverse communities together to spark conversation.

“Simply put, the event is a concert of music and poetry. What makes it unique is the process in which we’re getting there,” says Lertzman-Lepofsky [Heaven].

HEARTBEAT comes to life

The two came up with the concept for the event one year ago.

“[We] felt the need to do something concrete to try to promote love and community instead of hate.”

At the time, a vigil was being held for the Quebec City mosque shooting and Donald Trump had just been elected. Their strength being in music, they wanted to create change by putting on a concert to celebrate community and diversity in Vancouver.

Wanting people to feel comfortable reaching out to one another, the two thought a good place to start would be with music. They came up with the idea of giving people the topic of music as a starting point because what is more inoffensive than: ‘Did you like this song?’

The hope is that one question will lead to another and soon enough a friendship is born.

“We want to encourage dialogue, encourage community building, celebrate intercultural community instead of fearing what it means for our identities as Canadians, because we’re all Canadians,” says Lertzman-Lepofsky [Heaven].

The free concert is being held at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, the first to respond to the worthwhile
HEARTBEAT project. Lertzman-Lepofsky and Heaven want this concert to be accessible for everyone: the venue is wheelchair friendly and they’re looking for an ASL interpreter.

“We believe music as a basic human right, and having money shouldn’t be a barrier to go out and be able to appreciate music,” says Lertzman-Lepofsky [Heaven]. “Anyone and everyone is welcome, regardless of how they identify and whether or not they can pay to get in.”

Why Heartbeat

The name for the event came to Heaven when she thought about how the “heart” represents the humanity that’s in everybody and the “beat” represents music.

“It’s in all of us, the potential to enjoy, hear and know, to take music and to interpret it,” says Heaven [Lertzman-Lepofsky].

The concert falling on the day before Valentine’s Day, represents to them the love we have for each other.

“It’s about the love in the world and what it does for people,” says Heaven. “One thing we can do is to facilitate and empower musicians to play this music and make beautiful change.”

The artists

At the beginning of the project, they had a feeling that many artists of various age, gender, race and orientations would want to join in.

“But now we know it in our bones,” says Heaven [Lertzman-Lepofsky].

The artists include: activist Audrey Siegl, Amarjeet Singh, Rika Siewert, Amanda Kenoras, Sari Alesh, Missy D, Ruel Morales, KeAloha Noelani, Jake McIntyre-Paul, Jessica Heaven and Gavia Lertzman – Lepofsky.

“We wanted to bring together diverse people both in our musicians and in the audience,” say Lertzman-Lepofsky and Heaven. “[The artists] brought in an amazing mix of tunes, from hundred-year-old folk tunes to the top 40 in Syria, there’s going to be some really, really cool arrangements.”

Although this is the first time any of these artists have worked together, they rave about the generosity of this group.

About the welcoming environment these artists have created for one another, they both agree on one point.

“It encourages you to think about what our society can be like if we embrace each other,” they say.


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