Featured Podcast—Larysa Kuzmenko's "In Memoriam: To the Victims of Chornobyl"

By Timm Suess - Flickr: Red Forest Hill, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14886940

In this piano piece, performed by Lilian Jin, Ukrainian-Canadian composer Larysa Kuzmenko memorializes the victims of the Chornobyl disaster, one of the worst nuclear power plant accidents in history. As nuclear destruction reemerges into the forefront of public consciousness, this piece reminds us of the importance of humanitarian values as an essential safeguard while we engage and make use of our ever-increasing power, brought about by technological innovation. Ms. Kuzmenko describes the piece: 

The opening theme is dark and ominous; it sets the tragic mood of the piece. Following this idea, I quote a sad but lyrical Ukrainian folk tune that describes a grave in the field begging the wind to keep it from dying and asking the sun to shine over it. The tempo suddenly quickens, and the music becomes very rhythmic, creating a rather chaotic atmosphere. The music reflects the mechanical sound of the nuclear reactor. The folk tune has taken on a different character here. It no longer is lyrical and is supported by jarring harmonies. The music signals the reactor’s first explosion at its first climax. Following this explosion, the music becomes very quiet, and slows down. Here, the folk tune essentially has exploded into little fragments, creating a kind of pointillistic texture. At this point, the music represents the invisible, yet fatal radioactive particles that are poisoning the atmosphere. The tempo builds up once again, and the music moves towards the second climax, signalling the second explosion. Here, I quote a sacred chant from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, asking God for forgiveness.

The piece ends with the reappearance of the opening material, setting a mood that questions the future of our planet.

—Larysa Kuzmenko

You can find the performance, along with other pieces, on our "Podcasts" page.

Film Screening and Panel Discussion with MSF

Music Without Borders will be hosting a film screening of MSF's "Access to the Danger Zone" on Monday, February 6th at 4:15pm, followed by a panel discussion with MSF staff!

It will take place at the University of Toronto Schools, 371 Bloor St. West, in room 230. 

To participate, please sign up at musicwithoutborder.com/film. Make sure to fill out the permission slip!

"Live your life like a story"—Storyteller Louise Profeit-LeBlanc

Previously, we heard about the healing power of music. But traditional storyteller Louise Profeit-LeBlanc says that there is a healing capacity in story as well. To find out why, listen to this Artist In Us Interview, part of a spinoff project that explores questions relating to the arts.

Louise grew up in the small village of Mayo and had the privilege to live with her grandmother who was a masterful storyteller. As a child, Louise was nurtured with traditional stories which serve as the foundation of her life. Her more than three decades of commitment to the cultural and artistic heritage of her people includes being guest performer at various storytelling festivals around the world, co-founder of the Yukon International Storytelling Festival, and one of the original members of the Society of Yukon Artists of Native Ancestry. 

The Healing Power of Music—Violinist Etsuko Kimura

Music is not medicine, but can it help people heal? How? 

Music Without Borders is certainly a project that taps into the power of music to help others heal.

Listen to the story of Etsuko Kimura and her experiences with the healing power of music growing up. She is the Assistant Concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. This is part of The Artist In Us Interview Series, a spinoff project that explores questions relating to the arts.

Introducing The Artist In Us Interviews!

The Artist In Us is an interview series that started last year, inspired by the 2007 social experiment with the world-renowned violinist playing incognito in the Washington Metro to "thunderous silence" and indifference. According to the Washington Post, which wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning article about this story, children were the only group of people who stopped and listened to Bell, while others just ignored him. 

Usually, people pay hundreds of dollars to go see Joshua Bell play, and when he returned to the Metro in 2014, the station was packed and the audience gave him a standing ovation. This raises some interesting questions. Why is it that in 2007 only a few people stopped to listen, even though Bell played as beautifully as usual and for free? Are we naturally attracted to beautiful music? Can we recognize its beauty even when it is least expected or seems ordinary? 

The Artist In Us Interviews ask these questions to various artists—amateurs, professionals, musicians, visual artists, storytellers and many others. We hope they help to generate discussions about the arts.

You can also find the interviews at theartistinus.com.

We Raised $15,000!

Thank you to everyone who participated in this campaign—volunteers, performers, sponsors, mentors, principals, teachers, friends and family! Together, we raised $15,000 in support of Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders. Your generous support has encouraged all of us to believe in the power of our own actions and how each and every one of us can make a difference in the world!

Music and Humanitarianism

In his keynote address at the Music Without Borders 2016 Concert, Dr. James Orbinski’s explores the overlap between music and humanitarianism, and explains how each is an expression of commitment towards excellence, beauty, love, and a world without borders:

"There are many similarities between basic humanitarianism and the power, energy and vitality of music in what is so beautifully captured and presented here tonight... Deep in my own centre, I feel a common sense of unity between this idea and experience of music, and the experience of what I know to be humanitarianism...

At its root, humanitarianism is about entering into that space where you are in relationship to other human beings—where you see the other not as an object, not as a subject, but as a fellow being. And in that relationship, one acts where the other is unable to act for themselves. One acts in a manner that is very much focused on and very much seeks to relieve suffering. And so, in a certain way, it is a kind of relationship that is rooted in the best words that I can find to describe, it’s rooted in a kind of "being and becoming." Music very much comes from that same place of "being and becoming." The resonance of music, the sound of music, its reverberations, bring us into that relationship of "being and becoming." And music, in many ways, is a window into and an offering from that "being and becoming."


The 2016 Music Without Borders concert was a celebration of music from around the world, played by some of Canada's best youth musicians. The evening began with a fusion of traditional Indian Carnatic and Western music and a hand-drumming song sung by an all-Nations group, Red Rhythm. Bakudan Taiko ended the evening with its own offering of traditional drumming, this time from Japan. Ravel's bluesy violin sonata led into a thrilling scherzo for piano by Chopin, while David Popper's cello quartet was a celebration of the beautiful sound of that instrument. The virtuosic violin solo piece "Zigeunerweisen" or "Gypsy Airs" by Sarasate contrasted with a piano quartet playing a boisterous fantasy on themes from Bizet's "Carmen." The sound of jazz brought another dimension to the concert, culminating in an original composition played by the Carter Brodkorb Quartet. Three other original compositions were also featured, as soundtracks to the video "Let's Be Humanitarians" and as a Music Without Borders theme song that ended off the evening.


Classical Music

Jazz and Pop

Traditional and Fusion

Original Compositions

Food for Thought

Some of our conversations about what it means to be a humanitarian take a turn towards food, as sharing and giving food has often been part of what humanitarians do. After all, all humans need food. There are an infinite number of ways to prepare food, but here is a dessert that you may want to try…


BVG Prep Contributing to Music Without Borders

Every Friday morning in February, many Bayview Glen Prep School students helped out with the Music Without Borders Hot Chocolate Sale to fundraise for Doctors Without Borders in support of their humanitarian efforts around the world. The sale was entirely student-run and engaged many different talents: some created posters, others came to school early to do set-up, while many others sang and busked to generate turn out. The BVG Prep Jazz Band lent its support to the final Hot Chocolate Sale and drew one of the biggest crowds, generating a real buzz for the 2016 Music Without Borders Campaign. All these efforts translate into a generous donation of nearly $300 towards MSF Canada. This is a fine example of how every dollar counts, and every small generous act goes towards making the world a better place!

Do Humanitarians Build Peace?

One idea about being a humanitarian that gets thrown around a lot is the work of peace building. As the following two posts—one about Youth Peacebuilders Network and one about Peace News Kids—indicate, peace building can start small.


Youth Peacebuilders Network

As part of my Grade 9 Leadership Class I took part in a YPN (Youth Peacebuilders Network) workshop. YPN is a network of youth who want to be actively changing social constructs within their neighbourhoods, communities, cities, nations and the world at large to create a more peaceful and unified planet. The daylong workshop was a chance to be introduced to YPN, its mission and values and be given the opportunities, skills and support to begin building peace. It was one of the most interesting and fun days of that school year. Right from the beginning of the day till the end, the environment of the workshop was very comfortable, casual and open. The activities were all mostly discussion based and interactive like games and skits. We were also given booklets with activities and materials for future use. The best part of the day was the fact that, because the setting was so open, many people felt comfortable sharing opinions or ideas. This allowed for a lot more positive brainstorming and interaction even when talking about opposing or controversial views.

Having a whole day dedicated to talking about and creating peace was extremely inspiring and we wanted to continue the work even after the day was over. To do this our class created multiple “Peace Projects,” which included spreading thoughts and actions of peace throughout our school community using cupcakes with positive messages and throughout the world with multiple YouTube videos. The videos are on the channel Possible Peace and we hope you will be inspired to spread peace in your own way! YPN was an eye opening experience and I wish all students could have the chance to participate one day. 

—by M.F.D.


What is Peace News Kids?

Hi! My name is Carmel.

I started Peace News Kids about a year ago. My sister and I created PNK because we felt that the news portrayed war-zones as...well, war-zones! They said that entire countries displayed violence to one another and loved fighting! Isn’t that crazy?! It isn’t in human nature to destroy other human beings. Yet, people unfortunately still do it.

It is impossible for an entire country to be “bad”. Even in the most violent areas, there are still signs of peace and hope. We created PNK because instead of telling everybody about how hopeless and bad war is, we want to tell people how there is hope. There are good people out there. Wherever there is war, there are also people trying to make things better. Since the news prefers to cover the negative things, we try to show people that there is a positive side. There is hope even in the most desperate of situations. At PNK we work to bring the good stuff into the light.