With the unfortunate times in which we live, it’s at least comforting to know that there are still good people out there doing good things. The Gracias a la Vida Project is a new venture started by Toronto and Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Gisun, along with a talented ensemble of artists from around the world. In tandem, they came together virtually to record a very special version of “Gracias a la Vida (Thanks to Life),” originally performed by Chilean singer Violeta Parra, and released in 1966.
Today marks the proper release of the song, a beautiful and classy rendition, featuring Gisun, along with Montreal, Quebec’s Ada Lea, Italian-Congolese artist Sans Soucis, Bianca Muñiz, Joy Morales, and Luz Pinos, all from New York, and guitarists Alper Tuzcu and Stephen Orr. Proceeds from the song will go to Music Heals, an organization that strives to increase access to music therapy for patients in children’s hospitals, seniors centers, AIDS & HIV programs, at-risk youth, and many more locations. Thus far, Music Heals has funded over 32,000 music therapy sessions.
Gisun started The Gracias a la Vida project towards the beginning of the pandemic after being inspired by Parra, whom she grew up listening to. In a very special Guest Blog, Gisun tells us more about her extensive experience in community outreach, as well as filling us in on more details behind the formation of The Gracias a la Vida Project.
Community, Outreach, and The Gracias a la Vida Project
Fusing music with community outreach initiatives has always been a motive for myself as an artist. It began in 2014 with my song ‘Suspiras,’ recorded at the New School in New York City, which was selected to be part of One Reason Recordings’ album A Bear, A Child, And A Red Balloon. The compilation album was used for One Reason Recordings’ Miracles Campaign, benefiting the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas, Texas. The campaign raised over 6,200 dollars in monetary and gift donations for the Centre.
During my time at Berklee Valencia, I created Speak for Music (SFM), a spoken word poetry project that aims to develop creative writing skills through spoken word poetry and music. With a small team, SFM was awarded the Berklee Diversity Grant in 2015, which was then allocated to program workshops and guest lectures with audiovisual presentations. We worked with high school students at Escuelas Pias Malvarrosa. Students composed original spoken word pieces, coached by visiting slam poets. Once the compositions were complete, the students visited recording studios at the Berklee Valencia campus where they learned about audio technology and recorded their pieces. The final product amounts to an album with each spoken word piece scored by Berklee musicians.
In 2017, I partnered with SideDoor, a youth resource centre in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories providing housing and lifestyle development. I coordinated songwriting workshops with Canadian artist Justin Nozuka in collaboration with twelve SideDoor members, who were new to the world of performing in front of an audience. This community engagement effort resulted in a beautiful performance, where the youth participants joined Nozuka on stage at Folk On The Rocks Festival to showcase their original collaborative song.
Music provided sonic support for the world during 2020, and it is helping us move into a new year. For myself, this arrives via The Gracias a la Vida Project, a collaborative, philanthropic music initiative crossing an array of countries and communities. Produced with friends and former colleagues from my time at the New School and beyond, I gathered a diverse ensemble of five vocalists and two guitarists to create a unique take, each person contributing a verse with their own flair. The project is partnering with Music Heals to bring attention to the importance of music therapy, where proceeds of the song will be donated to support their work and to encourage public involvement.
My love for music and community engagement has led me to create and facilitate initiatives that focus on the power of music. I continue to find ways to weave together artistry with cause-based projects that bring people together from all over the globe through meaningful and intentional visions.