I remember how happy I was for Nina Davuluri after her historic Miss America win, and when I found out she was going to be appearing at the Empire State Building for an Education Through Music (ETM) event, I immediately said, “I’ll cover the event!”
After I found out Nina was going to be there, I found out there was going to be a Grammy Award-winning violinist named Joshua Bell also in attendance there. When I was eight-years-old I actually tried to unsuccessfully play the violin, so the fact that Joshua is a Grammy Award-winner is pretty cool in my book.
ETM “partners with inner-city schools to provide all students with music as a core subject, and to create school communities that value the arts.” Its “mission is to promote the use of music in schools as a means of enhancing students’ academic performance and general development.”
The event took place on May 6th, and the starting time was 1 p.m. I got to the Empire State Building at around 12:15 p.m. It had been a while since I had been inside that building, so I took in all of my surroundings after I got there. I also had a nice chat with THZ’s videographer, Craig Taylor, for a few minutes, and you could tell both of us were excited to meet Nina.
When the event started, the Director of PR for the building made some comments.
Director of PR: “I’d like to welcome you all to our tower lighting ceremony for Education Through Music and its annual children’s benefit gala this evening. Education Through Music has partnered successfully with inner city schools to provide music as a core subject for all children and to utilize music as a catalyst to enhance students academic performance and general development. Tonight our world famous tower lights will shine in all purple in support of this mission. We’re excited to have with us today Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell and Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri to help us light the Empire State Building in purple. But first I’d like to introduce Executive Director of Education Through Music, Kathy Damkohler, up to the podium to say a few words.”
Kathy Damkohler: “On behalf of Education Through Music we would like to thank everyone at the Empire State Realty Trust for lighting the Empire State Building to honor the work of Education Through Music and to bring attention to music education for all children. I’d like to extend a very warm thanks to Joshua Bell who’s on our board, to Miss America Nina Davuluri and to our 2014 children’s honoree at the gala benefit tonight, Elizabeth Sobol, who’s the president and CEO of Universal Music Classics. And I’d like to finally just say what a thrill for all the children in New York City that we serve to know that the most famous building in New York City will be lit for them. Right now I’d like to introduce Joshua Bell to the podium.”
Joshua Bell: “Hello. Thanks so much for showing up and being here. This is very exciting for me…my favorite building in New York. And to be here celebrating, honoring, and acknowledging the importance of music for young people…music in schools. It’s the thing I’m most passionate about besides playing my violin and playing concerts, which is what I love to do the most. I want every kid to have that opportunity and ETM has done an incredible job. I visited the kids and their schools and it’s so amazing what music education does for children. Just very happy to be here…very honored that I get to be here today and flip the switch with Miss America who’s giving her time today. She’s doing amazing things all throughout the year, so thank you so much. Have a good day.”
After that Nina comes to the podium to speak.
Nina Davuluri: “Good afternoon, everyone. It is such an honor to be here representing my home state of New York. Home sweet home. So it’s always nice that I get to be here. On behalf of myself as well as the Miss America organization, I want to thank you the Empire State Building for all of your support with Education Through Music. Especially Miss America Organization…we’re the only competition that has a talent portion of competition and I think that really resonates with us and this program. So, thank you all for inviting us.
After Nina finished talking, it was announced that both Nina and Joshua would get their own Empire State Building to remind them of the day that they lit the building purple.
There was then a count of three, and you saw Nina and Joshua flip the switch. You then saw a model of the Empire State Building light up purple.
After a few more photos were taken of them by the media, we went upstairs to the 86th floor for interviews. If you’ve never been in the Empire State Building, I can definitely say it’s a very cool experience to go in the elevators up to that floor. Oh yeah, I did say “elevators.” You go on more than one elevator to get to the 86th floor.
When we reached the 86th floor and stepped onto the observation deck, I had to take a couple of photos. The view was simply breathtaking from up there, and on top of that it was a beautiful day.
Nina and Joshua also posed for some photos up there. The sun was kind of bright, so these are the best shots I got.
After the media took some photos of them up there, I had a chance to interview Joshua Bell! There was nothing better than getting to interview someone with NYC in the backdrop.
MC: What’s your involvement with Education Through Music?
JB: I’m a concert violinist and I travel around the world. I feel like I’m so lucky that I had music in my life. But a lot of kids do not, and it seems to be one of the things we’re cutting from schools first. It’s just absolutely a tragedy. The organization Education Through music is doing an amazing job. They’re bringing music programs into inner city schools in the Bronx and other places in Manhattan and spreading around the country. I visited the schools and I see what it’s done to the kids. It’s raised their grades in every aspect of school and their self esteem. It’s so fantastic so I really believe in that.
MC: You would say music enriches our lives.
JB: Music and art are part of who we are as human beings along with history, mathematics, English, and language. Music and art is such an important part of life, and it needs to be in schools. Not just some extra curricular thing that you hope the parents are gonna involve the kids as part of the rich experience of being a human being. As it turns out it helps all aspects of schooling. It has been shown to do that.
MC: I know you’re a Grammy Award-winning violinist. Has the violin always been your instrument ever since you were little?
JB: The violin has been my thing ever since I was four-years-old. My parents got me a small violin and I absolutely can’t imagine my life without music and certainly a violin.
MC: I know that you have another benefit next month called “After the Storm.” How important is it for you to give back to the people?
JB: One of the great things about being a performance artist is that you have chances to give back because any time a great cause tries to raise money they need people for entertainment so it’s nice as a performer to be able to give back several times a year to the things that I believe strongly in. And in this case, Education Through Music is one of the things I believe most strongly in.
MC: What are you looking to convey to people when you perform in concerts?
JB: Music celebrates being alive and being a human being. In my case, it’s classical music. When I play a piece of Beethoven, Beethoven has done all the heavy lifting by writing the most uplifting music that’s ever been written by a human being. So I just have to be there to show them what the Beethovens and the Bachs and the Mozarts have already given us. Music has an amazing power.
MC: What can your fans look forward to this year?
JB: I just came back from London recording an album of Johann Sebastian Bach with my orchestra, The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, which I just took over as Music Director. So that’s my next thing. In the city I’m performing in the summer in Central Park…an outdoor concert. I’m on my way now to Los Angeles to play with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic.
After my wonderful interview with Joshua, I had a chance to ask Nina a couple of questions.
MC: How did you get involved with Education Through Music?
ND: Well, it was really a perfect I suppose correlation with the Miss America organization. Joshua Bell was one of my judges this year at Miss America. I think it really resonates with us because we’re the only competition that has a talent portion of competition. So, obviously cultivating the arts, music, and skills within our youth across the country is something that’s really important to us.
MC: How has your reign been since you won Miss America?
ND: It has been such a whirlwind of a tour. The night I won I was asked to repack my belongings into two suitcases, and I have been living literally out of those two suitcases since then. So, I travel on average 20,000 miles a month. I get to work with incredible organizations promoting wonderful causes such as Education Through Music. I also serve as the National Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as well as STEM education and of course, my own platform which is diversity through cultural competency. It keeps me quite busy.
And with that we come to the end of this wonderful event. ETM is a wonderful nonprofit organization, and I was very impressed with what their mission is. If you would like to find out more about ETM, please go to etmonline.org.
It was great to meet Nina and Joshua in person, and I must say that Nina is a very beautiful person both inside and out. Joshua is a very kind person with a very big heart.