From Hope to Home, Families Receive Strength from the Lullaby Project

“So many amazing things happen on that stage and I was part of it,” says Sabrina about recording her lullaby on the stage of Benaroya Hall.

Sabrina found hope for her family through the Lullaby Project, a program that helps mothers experiencing homelessness write lullabies for their children.

By Andrew Stiefel

The shouts of children fill the Samuel & Althea Stroum Grand Lobby at Benaroya Hall. People gather in knots, talking and laughing together. The lobby is humming with energy and conversation. Only moments before, however, the space was transfixed by a very special performance. Sabrina, a mother from Mary’s Place, performed a lullaby she wrote for her children with Seattle Symphony musicians.

The concert was part of the Lullaby Project, a partnership between Mary’s Place and the Seattle Symphony that helps mothers experiencing homelessness write, compose and record lullabies for their children. A national program of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, the Lullaby Project begins with creative workshops in the spring and concludes with a public performance on Mother’s Day. Started in 2013, the partnership between Mary’s Place and the Seattle Symphony has served 40 families over the last five years.

Sabrina performed a lullaby she wrote with Seattle Symphony musicians at Mary’s Place annual Brunch for Beds fundraiser at Benaroya Hall this September.

I had the privilege of meeting Sabrina after the concert. As we sat surrounded by white tablecloths and table decorations in the warm glow of the sun, I was struck by the stark contrast to the surroundings that Sabrina and her family had endured less than a year ago.

“We lived in a tent for about eight months,” Sabrina explains. “But then Mary’s Place called us and said we have a place for you, come inside.” Today you could hardly see any of that in Sabrina’s face as she beamed in the success of her performance and the joy of her family’s new circumstances. She gushes, “Now we have our own home!”


The Lullaby Project

Part of the Seattle Symphony’s Simple Gifts initiative, the Lullaby Project aims to empower individuals experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity to connect with their creativity as a means to spark joy and inspire hope.

Over the course of two months, Seattle Symphony musicians and teaching artists meet with participating mothers in a creative workshop where the moms express their thoughts and hopes for their children in writing. Working together, they pull out words, phrases and themes to craft into verses and melodies, creating personalized lullabies.

For the mothers and teaching artists, who were strangers at first, the process of creating the lullabies inspires conversations about difficult topics, including safety, caring for a child and their hopes for the future.

“My song really is a story,” Sabrina explains. “The first verse is our family before our kids were born, about me and Joseph having adventures together. And the second verse is about my daughter.” She continues, “the third verse is for my boy, about realizing we have these two children to care for. And the fourth verse is about hope for our future, hope for our family.”

Most mothers choose to let the Symphony’s musicians perform their pieces during the recording session and a final Mother’s Day concert, but Sabrina wanted to sing for her family and friends. After a tearful rehearsal, Sabrina walked onto the Benaroya Hall stage to record her lullaby with Jeffrey Barker and Wes Dyring, two musicians from the Seattle Symphony.

“Walking out onto the stage — it was just stunning,” recalls Sabrina. “I was blown away by the beauty of the stage and imagining people in the seats listening to me. So many amazing things happen on that stage and I was part of it.”

Our Lullaby Came True

A few weeks after the recording session and performance, Sabrina and her family received news that they would be moving into permanent housing.  “We slept on the floor in our apartment with blankets and nothing else that first night,” recalls Sabrina about moving into their new home. “We work up sore, but we were the happiest ever.”

Brunch for Beds
Sabrina and her family after her performance at Benaroya Hall in September 2017.

As she reflects on her family’s journey, Sabrina says she has found strength in the creative process. “It is a long transition to recover from the depression being in a shelter gives you,” she explains. “It took me about two and a half months to finally get over the stress and the depression. One day I realized, why don’t I try being creative? So now I’ve written another lullaby and I draw a web comic every week. Creating art helped me overcome depression.”

Today Sabrina and her family live in the Othello neighborhood and Joseph, her husband, has a new job at Pacific Iron and Metal. “I sing my lullaby all the time. It even puts my husband to sleep,” Sabrina laughs. “I love the fact that I’m here, that we had a happy ending to our story. That our lullaby came true.”

Editor’s Note: During last season’s Lullaby Project, Seattle Symphony musicians and teaching artists worked with ten families from Mary’s Place. As of September, all ten families had successfully transitioned into permanent housing, thanks to the generosity and work of Mary’s Place staff and volunteers.


How You Can Help

We hope you will learn more about all the organizations that partner with us in our Simple Gifts initiative and seek out opportunities to help others in your own communities. It can be the simple gift of time spent volunteering. It can be the gift of becoming more attuned to the root causes of homelessness and what can be done to help people experiencing this low time in their lives. It can be attending these Symphony performances where the art and music and poetry of some of our most vulnerable citizens will be shared. To someone so accustomed to going unseen, this is a gift in and of itself.

Thank you for joining us in lifting up our fellow community members, and thank you for being part of our journey of giving Simple Gifts. To support Simple Gifts, give online or call Donor Relations at 206.215.4832. Every gift makes a difference!

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Posted on November 14, 2017

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