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Music for Life International presents The Scheherazade Initiative

September 21, 2015 | By Dan Dutcher
Dan Dutcher Public Relations
Music for Life International presents The Scheherazade Initiative: Celebrating the Resilience of Women and Girls in the Face of Violence, a benefit concert of the great Scheherazade-inspired works by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Maurice Ravel, organized and led by the Indian conductor George Mathew. The concert will be presented in Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall on October 19, 2015 at 8pm. Net proceeds will benefit the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of UN Women, will deliver opening remarks.

The Scheherazade Initiative is a partnership between Music for Life International and the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women to raise funds and public awareness for some of the world's most catalytic, innovative, and promising approaches to eliminating violence against women and girls. The Concert at Carnegie Hall is the culmination of a series of events in Washington D.C., New Delhi, and New York that serve as a tribute to the resilience of women and girls in the face of often unspeakable violence as well as an urgent call to the global community to take action to make the world safe for our sisters, mothers, and daughters.

The Scheherazade Initiative has itself become a powerful metaphor for resilience. On January 26th this year, the concert had to be postponed as the most powerful blizzard in several years bore down on the Eastern Seaboard. After more than a year of preparation, even as the international orchestra began to assemble on stage, The Scheherazade Initiative became the first concert in 124 years at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage to be cancelled on account of the weather. In the months following, Music for Life International worked tirelessly with Carnegie Hall, concert partner and beneficiary UN Trust Fund, the distinguished soloists and artists of the orchestra to reschedule the concert. The concert has now emerged restored and reinvigorated to enable great music to add new voices to ending violence against women and girls.

The Scheherazade Initiative will bring together many of the world’s finest orchestral musicians. Principal artists will gather from the New York Philharmonic, MET Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Buffalo Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and many others; along with colleagues from chamber ensembles, including the all-female ensembles Genghis Barbie and the Stiletto Brass Quintet; and students, faculty and alumni of the Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, Curtis Institute, Oberlin Conservatory, and other major international music academies.

Elmira Darvarova, former Concertmaster of the MET Orchestra (and the first female concertmaster in the MET’s history), will serve as Concertmaster. The distinguished American Mezzo-Soprano and MET Opera star, Susanne Mentzer, will give voice to Ravel's Shéhérazade in the concert. Ms. Mentzer appears this season at the MET Opera as Marcellina in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Ms. Mentzer is a powerfully inspiring figure of resilience as a survivor herself of domestic violence. She recently shared her story, “I’m Still Here,” in the Huffington Post, seeking to inspire other women in similar situations. The concert will also feature the electrifying Spoken Word Poet, Sarah Kay, whose phenomenal performance at TED 2011 has received more than 8 million views. She makes her Carnegie Hall debut at The Scheherazade Initiative.

Speaking about the concert, Artistic Director George Mathew noted, "Scheherazade embodies the power of women over the centuries, around the world who have creatively worked in spheres large and small, private and public to stop violence. Scheherazade, as the narrator of One Thousand and One Nights, is an archetypal figure, who not only neutralized the violence directed against herself but has enriched global folklore for generations.”

“Over the last millennium,” Mathew continued, “Scheherazade’s legend has been an inspiration for composers, poets, painters, and other artists. Ravel's masterpiece goes beyond its own time and audience into the complex depths of empathy and emotional identification with not only Scheherazade, but all women, and perhaps all people facing gender-based violence. Rimsky-Korsakov suggests, between the lines, what a world might look like where women and men are both empowered to be hosts, designers, and influencers of society and behaviour."

"The UN Trust Fund is delighted to be part of this partnership with Music for Life International. The Scheherazade Initiative will not only provide critically-needed resources to support our efforts to end violence against women and girls, but will also connect individuals around the world to our cause in an entirely new way." - Aldijana Sisic, Chief of the UN Trust Fund.

Scheherazade's example continues to tell us that telling our stories, speaking out, creating new narratives of compassion, justice and hope, is at the heart of what we can all do together to end violence against women and girls.


The Scheherazade Initiative is the sixth in a series of global humanitarian concerts that George Mathew and Music For Life International have conceived and presented at Carnegie Hall, gathering together artists from the world's finest orchestras, ensembles and music schools for humanitarian causes while employing the music itself as their central source of energy.

Through a series of fundraising concerts, ticket sales, sponsorships and donations, the Initiative will support the UN Trust Fund as a critical source of funding for civil society organizations and a vital mechanism for translating government commitments to ending gender-based violence into concrete action. It will also connect audiences around the world to the innovative and effective strategies pioneered by UN Trust Fund grantees to prevent violence against women and girls. To date, the UN Trust Fund has supported over 393 initiatives in 136 countries and territories with more than $103 million in grants, combining multiple areas of intervention to respond to women’s interrelated rights and needs from physical safety to economic security.

The Scheherazade Initiative was launched in Washington D.C. in December 2013, at the residence of the Ambassador of the Netherlands to the United States, in the presence of the Hon. Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President of the United States, and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. This was followed by international concerts at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi and at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations in New York.

The Scheherazade Initiative will operate under the auspices of Music for Life International, a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization in New York. The funds raised by The Scheherazade Initiative will go to the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

For more information visit www.scheherazadeinitiative.org.


The United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is the only global grant-making mechanism that is dedicated exclusively to addressing all forms of violence against women and girls. It supports effective initiatives that demonstrate that violence against women and girls can be systematically addressed, reduced and, with persistence, eliminated. The UN Trust Fund is a testimony to the global consciousness that violence against women and girls is neither inevitable nor acceptable. The funds raised support initiatives by grantees that have a real, concrete, and lasting impact. The Fund focuses on three priority areas: preventing violence; expanding access to critical services for survivors; and strengthening the implementation of national laws. The UN Trust Fund is administered by UN Women on behalf of the UN System. For more information on the UN Trust Fund To End Violence against Women visit http://www.unwomen.org/en/trust-funds/un-trust-fund-to-end-violence-against-women.


Music for Life International, Inc. (MFLI) is a New York based social enterprise that was established to create social impact in a variety of sectors through music. MFLI presents musical concerts and related programs to promote the awareness of major international humanitarian crises and other public interest issues around the world. MFLI takes its name from the legendary MUSIC FOR LIFE concert organized by Leonard Bernstein in 1987 at Carnegie Hall. MFLI is a registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization.

George Mathew drew inspiration from the success of Beethoven’s Ninth for South Asia (2006), REQUIEM FOR DARFUR (2007), Mahler for the Children of AIDS (2009), Beethoven for the Indus Valley (2011), and Shostakovich for the Children of Syria (2014). These global humanitarian concerts, presented in Carnegie Hall, have brought together distinguished musicians from over 100 leading international ensembles including the New York Philharmonic, MET Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the Emerson, American, String Quartets, and students, graduates and faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, Juilliard School, Curtis Institute and others.

The concerts have received major global coverage in the BBC WORLD TV and Radio, CNN International, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Radio France, Voice of America, NY1 TV, National Public Radio, the Indian Express, The Hindu, the Pakistan Daily Times, and Musical America. The New York Times called Music For Life International’s most recent humanitarian concert, Shostakovich For the Children of Syria, a performance which “will live in the memory for having been being part of its time as well as part of Shostakovich’s.”

MFLI’s collaborations have included Doctors Without Borders, Refugees International, Acumen Fund, American Pakistan Foundation, American Jewish World Service, Catholic Medical Mission Board, Questscope, Tufts University Institute for Global Leadership, and United Nations agencies such as UNICEF, UNDP, UN Women, and the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

In recent years, MFLI’s activities have expanded beyond New York and Carnegie Hall to include performances in Panama, Jordan, Washington DC and New Delhi, India. SHOSTAKOVICH FOR THE CHILDREN OF SYRIA at Carnegie Hall in January 2014, resulted in a weeklong residency of performances and education workshops at Za’atari Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan by a distinguished group of artists from the MET Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, New World Symphony, and Jordanian National Symphony.

MFLI’s most recent undertaking is Ubuntu-Shruti, a professional training orchestra in New York City, of young empowered musicians and distinguished mentors creating inspired music and programming dedicated to immigrants, community, and education through music. Ubuntu-Shruti made its first appearances at the 2010 and 2011 New Year's Eve Concerts for Peace at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Their next season will include a major orchestral collaboration with Hindustani Music legend Ustad Amjad Ali Khan featuring the US premiere of his Samaagam Concerto for Sarod and Orchestra. Learn more at www.music4lifeinternational.org


George Mathew, Artistic Director/Conductor

Singaporean-born Indian conductor, George Mathew, founder and Artistic Director of MUSIC FOR LIFE INTERNATIONAL and UBUNTU-SHRUTI Orchestra, has emerged as one of the leading forces in the classical music world bringing symphonic music to focus on global humanitarian issues and crises at the beginning of the 21st Century. In recent seasons, he has made appearances in the US, India, Panama, Morocco, and South Africa as conductor and ambassador for transformative action through music. The SCHEHERAZADE INITIATIVE is Mr. Mathew’s sixth global humanitarian concert at Carnegie Hall since 2006.

Mr. Mathew is a thought leader and has spoken on music and social impact around the world at such venues as the TEDx and INK conferences, UNDP, Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, Singapore, and UNICEF Panama. He delivered the 2011 S.T. Lee Distinguished Lecture on Social Justice and Public Policy at Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg. He appears as commentator in “Following The Ninth” an exciting new documentary film on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Mr. Mathew is a graduate of Amherst College, the University of Minnesota and the Manhattan School of Music. Learn more about George Mathew at www.scheherazadeinitiative.org/the-performers/

Elmira Darvarova, Concertmaster

Elmira Darvarova, a concert violinist since the age of four, caused a sensation by becoming the first ever woman-concertmaster in the history of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She has also led, as concertmaster, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Columbus Symphony, and the Grant Park Symphony in Chicago, as well as the Music for Life International Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. She can be heard on numerous CDs recorded for several labels (recent releases include the world premiere of the Vernon Duke Violin Concerto with the ORF Vienna Radio Orchestra). She has appeared in recitals and as soloist on four continents, and has performed concertos with numerous European and American orchestras. She is the founder and leader of the New York Piano Quartet, the Otero-Darvarova Duo, the Amram Ensemble, the Delphinium Trio, and President and Artistic Director of the New York Chamber Music Festival. Learn more at elmiradarvarova.com.

Susanne Mentzer, Mezzo-soprano

American mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer has had a highly respected operatic, concert, and chamber music career of over 30 years. Known for her interpretation of Mozart, Mahler, Strauss and Berlioz, she has appeared on four continents at nearly every great opera house and orchestra, notably as a guest artist at the Metropolitan Opera since 1989. Ms. Mentzer appears this season at the MET as Marcellina in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro.

Her discography includes over 25 CDs and DVDs. Susanne has also appeared on numerous PBS telecasts and in the Met’s HD Cinema broadcasts. As a writer, she contributes regularly to the Huffington Post. This led to her receiving the 2013 VERA Award (Voice Education Research Awareness) from The Voice Foundation. In October 2014 she wrote of her own experience with domestic violence, something she had kept hidden for 34 years. She previously appeared with Music for Life International at Carnegie Hall in Mahler’s Third Symphony.

A mentor to young singers, she serves on the boards of The Sullivan Foundation and The George London Foundation. Susanne resides in California where she teaches privately in the San Francisco area. She previously taught for twelve years in academia at DePaul University and Rice University. Read more about Susanne at susannementzer.com.

Robert Langevin, Flute

With the start of the 2000–01 season, Robert Langevin joined the New York Philharmonic as Principal Flute, in The Lila Acheson Wallace Chair. In May 2001, he made his solo debut with the Orchestra in the North American premiere of Siegfried Matthus’s Concerto for Flute and Harp with Philharmonic Principal Harp Nancy Allen and Music Director Kurt Masur. His October 2012 solo performance in Nielsen’s Flute Concerto, conducted by Music Director Alan Gilbert, was recorded for inclusion in The Nielsen Project, the Orchestra’s multi-season traversal of all of the Danish composer’s symphonies and concertos, to be released by DaCapo Records.

Mr. Langevin is a member of the Philharmonic Quintet of New York with which he has performed concerts on many continents. In addition, he has given recitals and master classes throughout ?the United States and in countries such as Canada, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan, North Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam. He is currently on the faculties of The Juilliard School, The Manhattan School of Music, and the Orford International Summer Festival.

Sarah Kay, Spoken Word Poet

Sarah Kay is an artist, performer, and educator. Born and raised in New York City, Kay began writing and performing spoken word poetry when she was fourteen years old. Even as a very young poet, Kay made herself at home at the Bowery Poetry Club, one of New York’s most famous spoken word venues. Social issues and global perspectives framed Kay’s trajectory and focus from the start. In 2004, Kay founded Project VOICE to encourage creative self-expression through spoken word poetry. She was invited to perform at the United Nations, where she was the featured poet for the launch of the 2004 World Youth Report.

In 2011, Kay was invited to deliver a talk on The Rediscovery of Wonder at the TED Conference in Long Beach, CA, which garnered two standing ovations and has been seen over eight million times online. Kay is a passionate educator and co-director of Project VOICE, which is dedicated to using spoken word poetry to entertain, educate, and inspire students and teachers in schools and communities worldwide. Kay is also a published author, whose work can be found in many literary publications in addition to assorted anthologies and collections. Her first book, “B” was ranked #1 Bestselling Poetry Book on Amazon. Her second book, “No Matter the Wreckage,” published by Write Bloody Publishing in 2014, was a GoodReads finalist for “Best Poetry Book of 2014”.

Kay graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Modern Culture and Media in 2010, and in 2012 she earned a Master’s Degree in the Art of Teaching from Brown. Kay is also the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Grinnell College. For more information on Sarah Kay, see www.kaysarahsera.com


Tickets are $35 - $125. For information or to purchase tickets, call CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800. Tickets are also available at the Carnegie Hall Box Office at 57th and Seventh Avenue, or online at www.carnegiehall.org.


For press tickets, please contact Dan Dutcher, 917-566-8413 or Dan@dandutcherpr.com High resolution photos available on request. Website: www.scheherazadeinitiative.org


The Scheherazade Initiative Orchestra is comprised of principal and other musicians from the following ensembles and institutions, who have generously donated their services:

New York Philharmonic

Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Orchestra of St. Luke’s

Buffalo Philharmonic

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

American Symphony Orchestra

American Composers Orchestra

American Ballet Theater Orchestra

Albany Symphony Orchestra

Colorado Symphony Orchestra

Saito Kinen Orchestra

Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

Jordan National Orchestra

Hudson Valley Philharmonic

Miami Symphony Orchestra

New Haven Symphony Orchestra

Greater Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra

Mid-Coast Symphony Orchestra

Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra

Austin Symphony Orchestra

Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra

Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra

Santa Fe Opera Orchestra

Stamford Symphony Orchestra

Westchester Philharmonic

Orquesta Filharmonic de Boca del Rio (Mexico)

Washington Heights Camerata

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

New York Youth Symphony

New World Symphony

Verbier Festival Orchestra

Symphony in C

National Repertory Orchestra

Ubuntu-Shruti Orchestra

National Youth Orchestra of the USA

Genghis Barbie

Stiletto Brass Quintet


Sphinx Virtuosi

Ensemble ACJW

Axiom Ensemble

The Juilliard School

Manhattan School of Music

Mannes College of Music - The New School

The Curtis Institute

Music Academy of the West

Yale School of Music

Montclair State University

Rutgers University

Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College

Tufts University

Columbia University

Oberlin Conservatory

Sydney Conservatorium

New World School of the Arts, Miami

Harvard University


Alexander Bernstein, President, Leonard Bernstein Family Foundation

Catherine M. Cahill, President and CEO, Mann Center for the Performing Arts

Elmira Darvarova, Former Concertmaster, MET Orchestra; President, New York Chamber Music Festival

Mallika Dutt, President and CEO, Breakthrough

Aaron Dworkin, Founder and President, The Sphinx Organization; Member, National Council on the Arts

JoAnn Falletta, Music Director, Buffalo Philharmonic Music; Director, Virginia Symphony

James Gandre, President, Manhattan School of Music

Zarin Mehta, Former President and Executive Director, New York Philharmonic; Co-Executive Director, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University

Sir Roger Norrington, Principal Conductor, Zurich Chamber Orchestra

Gunther Schuller (In Memoriam), Composer and Conductor; Pulitzer, Grawemeyer and MacArthur laureate

Aroon Shivdasani, Executive Director, Indo-American Arts Council

Robert Sirota, Composer; Former President, Manhattan School of Music

Mara Topping Esq., Partner, White & Case LLP

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Honorary Elder, The Elders

Matthew VanBesien, President, New York Philharmonic

Robert W. van Zwieten, President and CEO, Emerging Markets Private Equity Association; Chairman, Music for Life International




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