Can chamber music increase mental health awareness? - Generocity Philly

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Jan. 11, 2019 7:53 am

Can chamber music increase mental health awareness?

Ellipses Ensemble thinks it can by incorporating films, visual art and other features into its live performances around the Philadelphia area.

Ellipses Ensemble.

(Courtesy photo)

The best instruments for conveying the importance of mental health awareness? Per Susanna Loewy, it’s a flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, cello and harp.

Loewy is the cofounder of Ellipses Ensemble, a nonprofit that holds free chamber music concerts in the Philadelphia area in an effort to start conversations about mental health and reduce its stigma. Two documentary films focused on mental health are also played at each performance. (“Ellipses” refers to the mantra, “There is more.”)

Ellipses Ensemble’s next performances are this weekend: one on Saturday in Wynnewood and another on Sunday at the Philadelphia Ethical Society in Center City. All of the performances are free, but donations are encouraged. The proceeds are split between Ellipses Ensemble and Prevent Suicide PA.

The pieces Loewy curates for the show relate to mental health or were composed by someone whose backstory is related to the topic. For example, the musicians will play a piece that combines flute, violin and oboe so the audience can “hear harmonies and differences in ways that are not the usual,” Loewy said.

Visual art and poetry will also be presented at an upcoming concert.

"If you try to pick out a bunch of different entry points, they have a better chance at another person opening themselves up."
Susanna Loewy

“We’re really trying to make a multi-dimensional interdisciplinary performance to appeal to lots of different people because the idea is that you’re going to reach different people in different ways,” Loewy said. ”If you try to pick out a bunch of different entry points, they have a better chance at another person opening themselves up.”

Loewy cofounded Ellipses Ensembles with Gabriel Nathan, the editor-in-chief of OC87 Recovery Diaries, a website that publishes stories about mental health. Their first concert in November focused on mental health during the holiday season — a documentary that was shown, “Herbie The Love Bug: Depression & Recovery,” also starred Nathan — and this weekend’s shows are centered on New Year’s resolutions.

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For each theme, Ellipses Ensembles performs a show at the Philadelphia Ethical Society, coupled with an “outreach concert” — meaning one played in an atypical venue. On Saturday, for instance, the ensemble’s venue is a library, and the musicians played in a church last month.

The nonprofit has concerts planned through May, but Loewy said they still need to fundraise $10,000 to make that happen. Still, since officially becoming a nonprofit in October, the performances have received positive feedback and even encouraged conversations about mental health within Loewy’s personal circles, she said.

For Loewy, the nonprofit allows her to combine two passions: music and helping others. As a flutist, she’s played for groups like the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philadelphia Opera, the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Philly Pops. She’s extended her knowledge to young musicians as a teaching artist for the nonprofit Project 440, for which she encourages her students to give back to their community.

It wasn’t until she got the idea for Ellipses Ensemble that she found the best way she could translate her experiences into helping others.

“[Ellipses Ensemble] felt like the right thing to be doing,” Loewy said. “I’ve never felt like I’m spending too much time on it, I think it’s where the intention needs to be right now.”

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