Several of our Madison Symphony Orchestra musicians have formed a group to explore chamber music more deeply, and find ways to support social justice. Mary Theodore shared this story with us about the WE Project origins, and the first project that takes place this week to benefit the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness. Learn more about the WE Project. The event begins on December 25 at 6:00 p.m., and concludes on January 3 at 6:00 p.m.

Wisconsin Ensemble Project – WE Project – was formed by local, professional musicians Leanne League, Mary Theodore, Christopher Dozoryst, and Karl Lavine from the Madison Symphony and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestras. After the onset of the pandemic, this quartet of colleagues gathered casually a few times for front yard chamber music readings which were enjoyed by neighbors and passers-by. On one occasion, they asked for listeners to contribute to any local racial justice organization. WE Project was soon born. In the quartet’s desire to delve more deeply into chamber music repertoire and address some of the many, pressing social justice issues of our time, they decided to meet more formally for recorded performances which would not only generate some work for them, but also benefit local and international organizations.  

When exploring organizations to partner with for their first project, they were struck by the compelling story of the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness. They had been previously unaware that in Dane County, the life expectancy of a Black woman is 60 years old, whereas the life expectancy of their white counterparts is 85 years old. Says WE Project member Mary Theodore, “We felt strongly about the work of the Foundation as we learned more about their mission to eliminate the startling health and economic disparities Black women face in our community.” The mission of Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness is: To eliminate health disparities and other barriers impacting the lives of women and girls of African descent. We will achieve this mission through education and outreach, advocacy, support circles, and powerful partnerships.  

This production will offer a meaningful program as well as direct impact. You will hear the story and see the face of the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness woven through a quality chamber music performance featuring Black women composers Florence Price, Dorothy Rudd Moore, and Jessie Montgomery. Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness CEO Lisa Peyton-Caire, who launched the Black women’s health advocacy organization in 2012, says the concert is a beautiful example of how community and organizations can partner to drive social change together. “We are elated that WE Project chose us as their first benefit recipient, and that our mission and work to transform Black women’s health in Wisconsin resonated with them,” said Peyton-Caire. “We know that ultimately it takes all of our effort to solve the inequities in our community, and this benefit concert is a beautiful example of the loving and creative ways we can join forces to do this.”

For future benefits, WE Project is planning to address homelessness, food insecurity, and international childrens’ aid, among other causes, and hopes to plan at least two more for this season. Please remember that those who were already hurting the most are hurting even more in this time of COVID.

PHOTO: Katrin Talbot