Music for Food

Audience Engagement, Community Outreach, Ensembles, Inspirational Stories, Interdisciplinary, Opportunity

Cello Quartet Shakes Things Up in Cleveland

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By Sophie Benn

If you went around asking, “What is your favorite classical instrument?” many, if not most people, would pick the cello. There’s something about its low, melodious voice that just draws people in. We are the Cleveland Cello Quartet (members Anna Hurt, Carlyn Kessler, Sophie Benn, and Eva Ribchinsky), and we have made it our mission to bring the people what they want: fun and beautiful cello music, everywhere and anywhere about town!

Back in January 2015, Anna and Carlyn were at a Cleveland Cello Society concert, which featured many of the cellists from the Cleveland Orchestra. They were very inspired by the concept of a “cello choir,” and wondered if they could get a regular group like that going. Through chatting over the summer, the idea evolved into a cello quartet, which is an even more versatile (and mobile) way of spreading the cello love!

Sophie and Eva, who are longtime friends and colleagues of Anna and Carlyn, hopped on board. We were all looking for more opportunities to play chamber music and do some fun outreach projects, and cello quartet is such a wonderful and unusual ensemble that it’s perfect for that kind of work. We are also all alumni or current students of the Cleveland Institute of Music, which is where many of us met.

It’s pretty unusual to have a professional ensemble made up of just one instrument—usually groups like this just get together for a one-off event. But we’ve found that playing together on a regular basis helps us explore new facets of our instrument. We really love the idea of presenting the cello, which is usually such a strictly classical instrument, in unconventional venues and arrangements. We have some classical pieces that were originally written for cello quartet, but also have a few new arrangements of some of our favorite pieces and songs. As a group, we’re really inspired by jazz and Swing-era singers such as Ella Fitzgerald. We’ve done some arrangements of jazz standards, Gershwin medleys, and even some Django Reinhardt tunes! The cello has such a vocal quality to its sound that it’s a great platform for genre-bending arrangements of songs in many styles of music.

Education and outreach are a big part of our identity as a group. We have all gone through the Suzuki training program at CIM, and several of us are very active teachers in the greater Cleveland area. Part of the reason we formed was so that we could have a platform for more outreach, and so far that’s been an integral part of our mission. We are currently working to create some outreach shows targeted at young audiences that we can bring around to schools and community centers around town. We really want to get across to audiences how amazing our instrument is, and how fun it can be to play chamber music with friends.

Since this is a newly formed group, we are still working through the foundational elements of a chamber ensemble, such as building up our repertoire, clarifying our mission, and getting a really enthusiastic fan base started. But we’ve had a really overwhelming level of interest already—we know this is a great addition to the Cleveland music scene! This fall, we’ve played at a Groupmuse event, in a Music For Food benefit concert, a few Classical Revolution outreach gigs, as well as some other odd things here and there. We were also featured on Classical Revolution’s  “First Fridays” feature on the public radio station in town in November, which was a blast! In the winter and spring, we’ll be having a few shows at clubs around town, as well as some outreach events. Stay tuned!

As freelance musicians, we are all deeply imbedded in the music scene in Cleveland, and are really proud to call this city our home. Cleveland is flooded with graduates from CIM and Oberlin, which are both among the best conservatories in the country. So our city has this amazing population of talented classical musicians, which is a joy for us! We love how varied, collaborative, and supportive the music scene here is–the sense of community is very strong here. We are fortunate to have so many fun opportunities to perform, both in the concert hall and more unconventional settings. In a culturally rich city where all art forms are thriving, the classical music scene is always fresh, inspiring, and unique.

Sophie Benn is a freelance musician based in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a founding member of the Cleveland Cello Quartet, is one of the regional coordinators of Groupmuse Cleveland, and serves as the principal cellist of CityMusic Chamber Orchestra. She is currently pursuing a Professional Studies diploma at the Cleveland Institute of Music with Richard Weiss, and received her bachelor’s degree in both performance and music history from Rice University, where she studied with Norman Fischer.

Music for Social Change

Music for Food Continues to Fight Hunger in Chicago

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By Mira Luxion

As Thanksgiving approaches and your thoughts turn towards gratitude, Music for Food invites you to transform your reflections into action! The weekend before the holiday, the Spektral Quartet will present a rousing concert benefitting the South Loop Community Church Food Pantry.

Sunday, Nov 22


PianoForte Studios- 1335 S Michigan Ave

Admission: Monetary donation and/or non-perishable food items

Spektral Quartet will present renditions of Schubert’s Quartettsatz, Cage’s Quartet in Four Parts, Prokofiev’s String Quartet No.1, and Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge.

Based in Boston, Music for Food was launched by internationally-renowned violist Kim Kashkashian as a community-based initiative to transform talent into real-world hunger relief. Music for Food has provided over 200,000 meals during its six-year tenure, with the goal of addressing the every-day, long-term effects of hunger on children and families. A 2012 USDA report found that 20% of Americans live in food-insecure households, and Music for Food aims to help lower that staggering number.

For MFF’s second Chicago event, concertgoers are offered incentives for giving beyond the suggested $20 donation. Donors at the $50-or-more level will be invited for a drink with the quartet following the concert, and gifts of $100 or more will provide a Thanksgiving basket to a South Loop Pantry client as well as an invitation to post-show cocktails. In order to take advantage of these incentives, please reserve your seat by Nov 18. On concert day, walk-ins will be admitted with any donation.

We hope you will join us!

For concert inquiries, please contact Mira Luxion at

Community Outreach, Music for Social Change

Series Brings Music for Food Initiative to Chicago

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By Mira Luxion

Chicago music lovers, mark your calendars for April 12! The Music for Food initiative will kick off its first Chicago concert with a feast of chamber music works from Austria.

Now in its fifth season, Music for Food seeks to raise awareness and support for Americans facing hunger. With performers and venues donating their efforts, 100% of audience donations benefit local food pantries. In the words of founder Kim Kashkashian, Music for Food also serves artists’ “need to use our training and talents to serve our community.” To date, Music for Food has funded over 150,000 meals.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository reports that one in six residents of Cook County benefits from food assistance. 69% of clients served live in households with incomes that fall at or below the federal poverty line. Furthermore, upwards of two-thirds of GCFD programs have reported increased demand in the last 12 months ( Across Illinois, one in seven people struggle with hunger (

Whatever its amount, your Music for Food donation will directly benefit those in need. The April 12 concert will take place at 5pm in the intimate recital hall of the Pianoforte Studios (1335 S. Michigan Ave). The program will feature Mozart’s G Major duo for violin and viola, and the Andante movement from his Piano Sonata No. 9; a selection of Schubert Lieder for soprano; and Carl Frühling’s lyrical Clarinet Trio in A Minor. Audience members are requested to bring a cash or check donation, or non-perishable food items. All donations will benefit the South Loop Community Church Food Pantry.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Concert Summary:

Sunday, April 12, 5pm

Pianoforte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Ave (

Music of Mozart, Schubert, and Carl Frühling

Please bring a cash or check donation, or non-perishable food items

Music for Food’s Mission Statement

We believe both music and food are essential to human life and growth. Music has the power to call forth the best in human beings and can inspire awareness and action when artists and audiences work together.

Music for Food is a musician-led initiative for local hunger relief that sets forth a model applicable in every community. Concerts raise resources and awareness in the fight against hunger, empowering musicians of all ages who wish to use their artistry to further social justice.

To learn more, or to get involved, visit, or contact

Cellist Mira Luxion is currently a member of the Musicians Club of Women, the Morton Feldman Chamber Players, and faculty at the Musical Offering, the Lycée Français de Chicago, and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras. Mira is thrilled to be involved in bring the mission of Music for Food to her hometown.