LiveConnections' Bridge Sessions and in-school residencies provide interactive educational opportunities for youth from city schools & people with disabilities.


Our LiveConnections Presents concert series features collaborative concerts designed for adventurous music-lovers.


We prioritize accessibility for people with disabilities through Bridge Sessions, workshops & live webcasts.

Written by Lindsay Westley   
Published on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 10:30

LiveConnections 5thPhiladelphia 08/28/2013 — Five years ago, a group of Philadelphia school students made their way across town to the first educational program presented by a brand new arts nonprofit, LiveConnections, at the World Cafe Live venue at 30th and Walnut. The students were introduced to percussion traditions from around the world by artists who invited them to connect their own passions and experiences to music through up-close, hands-on activities.

As one principal commented, “These experiences have been among the most educational and inspirational for our students and staff.  [LiveConnections] so naturally tapped into our students’ curiosity, connecting the relevancy of their lives to the academic and cultural experiences that we seek for them.”

Since then, more than 14,000 students and special needs populations have participated in LiveConnections’ educational programs (Bridge Sessions). And LiveConnections has expanded its offerings to include public concerts that are changing the landscape of classical music (ClassicAlive), as well as a brand new video initiative aimed at increasing access for underserved populations (LiveStudio).

It all began in early 2008 when Hal Real, founder of World Cafe Live, and David Bradley, a theater director and arts educator, gathered together a group of 30 artists, educators and entrepreneurs to talk about creating a new kind of collaborative musical project in Philadelphia. They called it LiveConnections. The group included a diverse mix of artists — jazz, classical, rock, hip-hop artists, new-age musicians and dancers — all interested in serving Philadelphia’s urban youth and special-needs populations through music.

On October 1, 2013, LiveConnections will celebrate five years of creating innovative, cross-genre musical collaborations with a fifth anniversary celebration to honor the musicians,  students and supporters who have helped shape LiveConnections’ mission.

The celebration at World Cafe Live will feature a sampling of the unique musical collaborations that have come to represent LiveConnections as an organization, including performances by LiveConnections artists from the Philadelphia Orchestra, Alô Brasil and Philadelphia’s indie music scene. The diverse anniversary program is designed to reinforce LiveConnections’ underlying mission to build musical bridges between communities.

Featured artists include Joseph Conyers and Yumi Kendall of the Philadelphia Orchestra; Luigi Mazzocchi and Lisa Vaupel of the Delaware Symphony; Alô Brasil members Alex Shaw, Josh Robinson and François Zayas; Lela Aisha Jones of FlyGround; master percussionist Doc Gibbs; and Philadelphia songwriter and producer Andrew Lipke. Food, drink and a chance for the audience to engage up-close with the artists all contribute to LiveConnectons’ unique style.

“We called our organization LiveConnections because we wanted to connect people through all kinds of music,” Hal Real said. “My experience with World Cafe Live showed me that there was a whole segment of the community that wasn’t being reached in Philadelphia. I could see a deep need for Philadelphia urban youth to engage with music, and I believed there was also a desire among musicians to collaborate with other musicians outside the normal concert venues. To match those two groups presented a real opportunity to do good and to do well.”

As the founder of World Cafe Live (and a classically trained pianist), Real was already familiar with the traditional presentation of music. He wanted to try something different, hoping to break down traditional barriers between the audience and the musicians and to serve local students whose school music programs were being eliminated. Led by arts educator David Bradley, the LiveConnections team designed an interactive format for Bridge Sessions, where kids clap, snap, dance and play along with a diverse line-up of teaching artists. These musicians hail from the Philadelphia Orchestra and Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, but also from hip-hop studios, dance studios, jazz halls, DJ’s soundbooths and percussion circles. They also come from diverse cultural backgrounds, as learning about cultures is equally as important as learning about music.

“The whole idea around Bridge Sessions was to foster a deeper understanding of cultures and music from around the world,” said Bradley. “We wanted to galvanize all of the resources we had at our fingertips to connect deeply with all parts of the community in a unique way. Kids deserve to experience the best their communities have to offer.”

That philosophy also inspired the ClassicAlive concert series, started in 2010. ClassicAlive concerts feature unique collaborations and innovative classical music projects, and are presented not in a concert hall, but in partner venue World Cafe Live’s casual, intimate space, where patrons can enjoy dinner or cocktails during the music. The concerts, curated by classical bassist Mary Wheelock Javian, aim to expand traditional boundaries and make great music accessible to a wider range of people. They give artists a chance to be creative and audiences a chance to hear something wholly new.

In the fall of 2013, LiveConnections will be piloting new programming aimed at further increasing access to both Bridge Sessions and ClassicAlive concerts using state-of-the-art video technology. The pilot sessions of this new LiveStudio initiative, produced by Galea McGregor, will use high-definition video footage to reach adults with cognitive disabilities at day programs and residential facilities across the region, for whom travel to the venue is not possible.

According to Melinda Steffy, general manager of LiveConnections, the three program areas, although different on the surface, share common themes. “Across all of our programs there is a commitment to innovation and collaboration. We’re working to make music fresh, accessible, powerful. And we see collaboration — whether it’s between musicians of different genres or between artists and students or between LiveConnections and other arts organizations — as a crucial tool to cultivate a vibrant culture of music with a far-reaching impact.”

LiveConnections’ fifth anniversary party on October 1 celebrates the innovative partnerships LiveConnections has forged with musicians, students and audiences during the past five years — from the 14,000 students served through Bridge Sessions, to the 1,500 audience members who have enjoyed dinner and a drink while listening to unique classical pairings. The anniversary provides an opportunity to celebrate the 70-plus artists and musicians who have helped make its concerts a success, the numerous schools and administrators who are committed to providing music experiences for students, and the generous supporters who have made LiveConnections’ dream of cross-genre collaboration a reality.

“We’re really celebrating the great work our teaching artists and musicians do to make this a reality,” Real said. “In many ways, we often do so without making a big splash. Our fifth anniversary is an opportunity to thank those people who have helped us shape our mission, and to help other people get to know us and experience a new type of artistic collaboration.”


Tuesday, October 1, 2013, 5:30-8:30pm
at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia
Tickets & details available here.

Angela Zator-Nelson

LiveConnections creates innovative, boundary-crossing music programming and education out of partner venue World Cafe Live. Through live concerts, interactive programs for youth and video technology, LiveConnections commissions collaborations that join artists from different genres — particularly classical with world, jazz, or popular styles — to highlight how music crosses cultures and to reimagine the landscape of live music. Our programs reach people who would not normally experience this kind of music, from urban youth to special needs populations to general audiences.

  • Bridge Sessions engage urban youth and special needs populations in interactive performances that explore diverse musical styles and cultures and spark learning that’s hands-on and alive.
  • ClassicAlive expands how classical music is experienced by breaking boundaries of repertoire, collaboration and atmosphere in innovative concerts designed to attract both new audiences and long-time classical fans.
  • LiveStudio uses state-of-the-art video technology to connect underserved populations to exceptional music programming.

For more information, visit

Lindsay Westley, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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