Grad student awarded $10K to create multimedia project with San Francisco homeless

Composer and doctoral student Julie Herndon is the first winner of the Bay Area Composer Residency Award, which will support the production of a concert featuring the stories of homeless San Franciscans.

Artist and music doctoral student Julie Herndon is the inaugural recipient of the Bay Area Composer Residency Award from the American Composers Forum. The $10,000 prize will support her work creating a multimedia project in collaboration with homeless residents in San Francisco.

Herndon headshot

Music doctoral student Julie Herndon is the first recipient of the Bay Area Composer Residency Award from the American Composers Forum. (Image credit: John Ivers)

During the summer of 2020, Herndon will work with the homeless community in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district to create a multimedia concert that features their stories. The project is a collaboration with Code Tenderloin, an organization that provides support and services for homeless and low-income residents of the Tenderloin. She will also lead a series of workshops called Soundvoice that will teach participants about the process of creating musical and artistic performances.

Herndon is an Oakland-based composer, pianist and performer working with internal and external space through improvisation, text, graphics and electronics. Her work explores the body’s relationship to the self, to performance and to tools like musical instruments and personal technology. Her musical compositions have been performed by numerous ensembles worldwide, in both classical and contemporary musical styles.

Herndon said the concert she will produce is an effort to connect Bay Area arts organizations with the neighborhoods they inhabit.

“I hope this project will help bridge the gap by using sound to build mutual understanding, respect and meaningful relationships,” Herndon said. “My goal is to create a shared space where people feel safe to share their stories in sound. Everyone has a story, and I think it’s really valuable for people who might not otherwise hang out with each other to share their story with each other.”

Herndon holds a BA in music from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and an MA in music composition from Mills College. At Stanford, she is a Hume Fellow pursuing a doctorate in music.

Herndon was one of 27 applicants who proposed a collaborative project in the Bay Area with local partners of their choosing.

“This project was so compelling to our panel and us because it showed thoughtful engagement of an underserved community, meaningful interactions that value their individual voices and a celebratory event for all,” said American Composers Forum President and CEO Vanessa Rose. “We are proud to support this Bay Area-specific artistic endeavor.”

Since 1973, the American Composers Forum has facilitated creativity through music. ACF partners with a variety of ensembles and organizations to create opportunities and programs for artists and their new work to flourish.