The Somewhere Project: Celebrating Community and Creativity

Carnegie Hall

In early 2016, Carnegie Hall launched The Somewhere Project, a major citywide exploration of “West Side Story.” Students wrote original songs in projects across New York City, and community arts organizations incorporated the themes into their own programming, affirming how this quintessential story written 60 years ago about love, conflict, and learning to live alongside those who are different still resonates with us in such a contemporary way.

We Will Find a Place

“We will find a place
And be free from this world of hate
Let’s come together
To be one
Together we can find a place of love
A place for us”

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Dysani and the Future Music Project Songwriting Workshop (with Thomas Cabaniss, Sarah Elizabeth Charles, and Toni Blackman)

We Will Find a Place

Analysis of "Somewhere" from West Side Story

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Written by Dysani, a singer from Carnegie Hall’s Future Music Project, “We Will Find a Place” became an anthem for the young songwriters. Developed during afterschool workshops in Carnegie Hall’s Resnick Education Wing, the piece took inspiration from the song “Somewhere” from West Side Story.

For the past eight years, Carnegie Hall has partnered with city and state agencies to offer songwriting workshops where people collaborate with professional musicians to create, perform, and produce their own original music. Their stories connect people to each other, create empathy, and strengthen communities.

During the 2015–2016 season, public school students and community members were given the opportunity to express themselves by creating original music inspired by West Side Story.

Much of this music was performed in free Neighborhood Concerts in each borough of New York City in the weeks leading up to Carnegie Hall’s production of the classic musical.

Twelve partner organizations also joined the project, exploring the themes of West Side Story in their own programming.

These sneakers, designed by the Park Avenue Armory Youth Corps, depict key scenes, quotes, and characters from the musical.

Immigration
Ana Lucía, a participant in Carnegie Hall’s Future Music Project, wrote a song about the immigrant experience and the challenges of finding a home in a new land.

Modern Day Heroes

“We are refugees, we are immigrants
We’ve lost our innocence, we’re not ignorant
We’re modern day heroes
It’s not true when they say we’re just sinners”

Ana Lucía, Future Music Project

Modern Day Heroes

Men experiencing incarceration at Sing Sing Correctional Facility also considered issues of immigration and identity in West Side Story through the Musical Connections program. Here, Alfred performs his piece, “Mambo,” with teaching artist Sarah Elizabeth Charles.

The men engaged in yearlong composition and instrumental workshops, sharing their music alongside professional musicians. In this photo, Mohammed introduces a song during a concert for men from the rest of the facility.

Home
Kenyatta, another Musical Connections songwriter at Sing Sing, explored what “A Place for Us” means for those who are incarcerated. 

“Before incarceration, we think of home as a single place. Home is only inside your home and everywhere else is not. In here, when we talk about ‘When are you going home?,’ we don’t mean a specific place. We mean, ‘anywhere but here.’”

—Kenyatta, Sing Sing Correctional Facility

Mercedes (far left), a member of Park Avenue Armory’s Youth Corps, also considered the importance of finding a home and a place to feel safe.

Mercedes designed custom sneakers to convey the harmony and peace that Tony and Maria wish for in the song “Somewhere.”

“‘Somewhere’ leads to serenity. A place where people are safe from other people’s thoughts and opinions and can finally be at peace with themselves.”

Hudson Guild presented an exhibit of visual artwork and poetry inspired by the vision of a city that is a better place for all. Contributions, including this painting, “Manhattan Rooftops” by Michael Johnson, came from participants of all ages at community centers throughout New York City.

Dreams for the Future
Participants also wrote original music about the possibilities ahead.

Turning Point

“I’m gonna get myself together
And turn my life around
Let it be done
Let it be done”

Angel, Ariyanna, Diamond, and Nyshawn, Belmont Academy

Turning Point

Students at Belmont Academy created original music in collaboration with world roots band Brown Rice Family.

They showcased their songs in a public Neighborhood Concert at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Queens on February 26, 2016.

Who Knows

“Memories fade
Stories unfold
My vision is the brightest
In a world so cold
There’s no telling
Where this road goes”

Elijah, Julia, and Marques, Belmont Academy

Who Knows

“It’s about expressing how you feel or what you went through in your life. No matter how small you are or how old you are, you can still make music.”
—Elijah, Belmont Academy student

Shoot the Words

“Shoot the words
Don’t back down
Express yourself”

Jeily, Ryan, Leo, and Taneika, Bushwick Campus Community School

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In partnership with Make the Road New York, students from Bushwick Campus Community School created their own music in a project led by Slavic Soul Party! This song and others were showcased at BRIC House in Brooklyn during a public Neighborhood Concert.

Shoot the Words
Police and Community Relations
Youth in the Bronx wrote songs about the relationship between police and the communities they serve, highlighted by the song “Gee, Officer Krupke” in “West Side Story.”

Authorized

“Yo, I’m tired of the violence
I’m tired of the nonsense
Projects to projects
we running outta options
The streets be the wisest
Now, we organizing”

Enrique, Justin, and Malcolm (with Matuto and Intikana), Bronx Hope

Authorized

After creating songs in collaboration with the band Matuto and teaching artist Intikana, students from Bronx Hope took the stage at The Bronx Museum of the Arts for a public Neighborhood Concert. The high-energy concert ended with audience members out of their seats and dancing.

Black Lives Matter

“Fists are all the people we lost to hate crimes
Fists are for justice. It will soon be our time”

Robert, Cleje, Danielle, Alex, Shanieka, Javid, Clinton High School

Black Lives Matter

Chris Washburne and his Latin jazz band SYOTOS worked with students from Clinton High School. Here, Shanieka performs her verse from “Black Lives Matter,” a musical take on the social justice movement.

Love
The love between Tony and Maria in “West Side Story” also inspired songs across the city. 

Wild

“I should’ve known better than to love something
Wild
I never should’ve loved you so
Wild
I never could’ve changed
Something so wild”

Danielle, Clinton High School

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Danielle wrote and performed her piece, “Wild,” during the Neighborhood Concert at The Bronx Museum of the Arts.

"Wild"

Raynesha, a participant in the Lullaby Project—a Carnegie Hall program that invites pregnant women and young mothers to work with professional artists to write personal lullabies for their babies—wrote a song for her daughter.

Luna’s Song

“Scared and excited
Was how I felt about you.
It’s your mommy
And I hope this song helps you through”

Raynesha (with Daniel), Lullaby Project

Luna's Song

The songs created during a Lullaby Project in partnership with The New York Foundling focused on the themes from West Side Story.

As part of the Lullaby Project, each mother receives a recording of her song and other mementos, keeping the new lullaby in the family for years.

Hope

“When you fall down you get right back up
But if you need me I will always be there”

Kyndal (with Saskia), Lullaby Project

Hope

“We are working with expectant and often young mothers who, more often than not, feel displaced in some way. To dream about ‘a place for us,’ for our children, allowed us to speak more intimately, instill more trust, become more vulnerable with one another.”
—Saskia Lane, teaching artist

Gender Identity
The all-female Sweet Out-of-Lines choir at Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music created, performed, and recorded its own original music in a project led by musicians Deidre Rodman Struck and James Shipp. 

Unstoppable

“When I feel like giving up
And I’m about to fall down
The harmonies lift me up
And you lend me your hand.”

Sweet Out-of-Lines, Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music

"Unstoppable"

Focusing on empowerment, this program became known as the “Girl Power” project by its participants.

Students in the Brooklyn College Community Partnership at Bushwick High School Campus created a play about opposition and gender identity, taking inspiration from the conflict between the Sharks and the Jets.

From March 4–6, 2016, three extraordinary performances of West Side Story were presented at the Knockdown Center, a restored factory in Queens. It was the culmination of a year of songwriting and creative work across New York City as part of The Somewhere Project.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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