The power of music is undeniable. In fact, music is often referred to as a “universal language,” bringing people together and connecting us in a harmonious way across the globe. Back in March, as the public health crisis took root, one video in particular captivated everyone, going viral. Maria Ninci filmed her neighbors Claudia Bucchini and Andrea Zucco playing their instruments from their balcony in Florence, Italy, in an effort to provide comfort through the crisis. At that time, Italy had the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world. A lockdown was in full effect and the community had become isolated, confined to their homes. Yet, the beautiful sounds which emanated from Bucchini and Zucco’s woodwind and strings could not be restrained! The two were enthusiastically applauded for boosting morale and inspiring hope within their neighborhood. The trend soon made its way country to country, even extending to parts of the United States.
In an article written for The New York Times, a professor of music by the name of Steve Waksman in Northampton, Massachusetts, stated something extremely noteworthy in the context of our current reality. Waksman asked, “Why do we sing at sporting events? Why do we sing in churches? There is something distinctly communal about singing in harmony. It’s like touching someone without touching them.” (Mele, Vigdor, 2020). Whether articulated through song or instruments, there is an intimacy within music itself that unifies people regardless of the barriers we face in society.
Moved by the positive impact of utilizing music as a source of comfort during “social distancing,” the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra reached out to the SPCA Cincinnati. Their goal was simple: to make a contribution of unique programming, intended for enrichment, to homeless pets in our care. The SPCA was immediately excited about the opportunity to have musicians perform live at our facility. “We play classical music continually throughout the day in the Joanie Bernard Cat Center here in Sharonville,” says Mike Retzlaff, VP of Operations at the SPCA. “We know the value it has on reducing stress and anxiety for our animals while in a shelter environment.” Research has proven that the benefits of music on pets include improved sleep, reduced barking, improved ability to cope with psychological stressors, and much more. Thus, the Summer Barkestra Concert Series has come to fruition!
A partnership with CCO is a clear win for the SPCA Cincinnati. The first performance was held Thursday, May 28th, and was broadcast live via the SPCA Cincinnati’s Facebook page. “Kicking off our new Barkestra partnership this past week, it was so interesting to see the animals’ curiosity piqued by the music: stopping to listen, coming in closer to interact with the musicians, and generally relaxing and enjoying the beautiful sounds,” said LeAnne Anklan, Executive Director of CCO. “But the bigger impact we hope Barkestra will have is to help to introduce SPCA‘s adoptable animals to their new parents and their forever homes. I am so excited to see how this partnership grows over the next several weeks—and hopefully into the future—as we continue making music with the SPCA. Crossing my fingers for a dog howl before the end of this!”
Our organization looks forward to the next five consecutive performances, scheduled every Thursday, until the last session on July 2nd. This is not an entirely new concept—prior to the pandemic, cellists and guitarists in states like Nebraska and Tennessee have volunteered to play for shelter animals. However, it is a first for our region! We are making SPCA history with this brand-new initiative; a priceless moment to witness. The music has been carefully selected to cater to the ears of our dogs and cats, with string and woodwind instruments to soothe their souls! All around the globe, we’ve seen how impactful live music has been during the public health crisis and are excited to bring that same joy and positive energy to shelter companions.
Martin Luther, 16th century theologian, composer, and priest (among other professions) once said, “My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.” How relevant that statement has become for us all! Please join us each Thursday until July 2nd on Facebook Live. Be sure to share this event online, and help the SPCA and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra spread joy household to household across our city—and beyond!
Nyketa Gaffney is the Public Information Officer for SPCA Cincinnati. SPCA Cincinnati is the only Humane Society in Hamilton County and positively affects the lives of more than 12,000 homeless pets each year.