A series of concerts featuring the voices and stories of people of all ages and backgrounds from across America.
For the past several years, Daniel's compositional focus has been an innovative joining of journalism and music that brings the lives and stories of contemporary Americans into the concert hall.
Through a series of eleven commissions of concert-length works titled Rakonto (the Esperanto word for “story”), he has traveled throughout the United States collecting stories from hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds, including immigrants, farmers and hurricane survivors. Their stories cover a wide range of topics: from the dreams and aspirations of high school and college students to the deportation of family members. Throughout each of these concerts, the recorded audio interviews were woven throughout the music, so friends, families and neighbors heard themselves telling their stories with music performed by his ensemble of some of New York City’s finest jazz musicians. Hearing their lives celebrated through music has always been an uplifting and powerful experience for the people in the audience.
Daniel has collected interviews and songs from all eleven Rakonto concerts to create two programs that celebrate the stories of the amazing people he met on his travels. Click on the links below to find out more:
Click below to visit explore some of the past Rakonto projects:
- RAKONTO: Melting Pot NYC A portrait of an immigrant neighborhood in New York City.
- RAKONTO: Life After Hurricane Sandy A chronicle of experiences from survivors of Hurricane Sandy
- RAKONTO: Voices from the Farm An exploration of the lives of farmers and the work they do
- RAKONTO: In the Garden A celebration of the wondrous diversity of nature and the role it has in our lives
- RAKONTO: Voices from the Catskills The rich history of the Catskill Mountains
Presenters love Rakonto!
"I think that everybody left the performance having the sense that they were much bigger than just themselves - that they were part of a community. It gave them the sense that they were neighbors.”
— Ellen Kodadek, Executive Director, Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, Flushing, NY
“Daniel is as sensitive and respectful a person as he is musically talented. I trusted that he would use this experience to create a work that truly honored the farming community. The resulting concert was everything we hoped for and more.”
— Amy Flack, Executive Director, Community Performance Series (CPS) at SUNY Potsdam, NY
“What was moving is that it was a first-person interpretation. The people who actually experienced Hurricane Sandy were the ones talking about it. Usually when you see a performance it’s someone interpreting someone else’s experience, but this was first-hand experience. And it was very heartfelt. There were points where it really moved you to tears.”
— Dawn Weiss, Docent, Long Island Children’s Museum
“I loved it! It brought community into the discussion, family into the discussion. It was a shared experience by the citizens of this area. The fact that people could actually talk about and share their experience with Hurricane Sandy, a year after the fact, then hear it brought to life through music and their own words was very exciting”
— James Packard, Theater Manager, Long Island Children’s Museum
“I can hear how much fun Daniel had creating this piece. It samples words, voices, the birds that you can hear here. He made several visits to Wave Hill Garden and met with our naturalists, our horticulturalists, and some really fabulous students. All of that - he wove into this piece!”
— Jennifer McGregor, Director of Arts, Wave Hill (Bronx, New York)
“We had such a great time with the project and felt so good about how it turned out. The audience loved it and we've heard lots of great feedback. I've lived here most of my life and I learned some things about our county I never knew! The time Daniel spent to really get to know our intentions with the project and eventually our community was truly astounding. Thank you Daniel, for shedding light on different aspects of our community in such a thoughtful way!”
— Jaymi Gilmour, Theater Manager, Cam-Plex, Gillette, Wyoming
“We loved Rakonto and were thrilled that you featured students from Harrisonburg High School. They have amazing stories to tell, and the event was a superb example of how the arts can be used to bring communities together in creative ways. I am delighted to know that the show will appear on public TV, and we look forward to the opportunity to see it again.”
— Jon Alger, President, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia
“With everything that’s happening in the world today, it’s the right time for such a warm message. It just all came together really nicely with such labor and love. It was so real and heartfelt to have [the students] tell their own stories.”
— Regan Byrne, Executive Director, The Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, Harrisonburg, Virginia
“It was fascinating to see how Kelly conveyed the diversity in the community….wonderful to hear the voices of the community reflected through music.”
— Jon Alger, President, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia
“Jazz pianist-composer Daniel Kelly’s masterful composition is a thrilling musical journey of immigrant voices as represented by recorded interviews intertwined with the virtuosic playing and singing of Kelly’s musicians, especially vocalist Yoon Sun Choi and pipa master Min Xiao-Fen. This multi-layered piece demands repeated listening, all to the delight of the audience.”
— Frank Juliano, Executive Director, Reeves-Reed Arboretum
“Daniel created an uplifting celebration of our community in music and song. The audience was amazed how he captured the spirit of our city.”
— Leigh Woodham, Director, Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center (Belle Glade, Florida)
“Your visit to our campus was so inspiring to me and my students. What you do in the world is so important and inspiring. Thank you for giving your time to my students and our community. What a gift to have you here.”
— Ingrid De Sanctis, Professor, School of Theatre and Dance, James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA)
“…extraordinary, to say the least! Memphians of Red Zone/Orange Mound and Knowledge Quest/South Memphis twinkled like stars through the amazing production. I wish the entire world could have witnessed this artistic show.”
— Jacquelyn Scruggs, Knowledge Quest, (Memphis, Tennessee)
“With deep compassionate listening, Daniel has created a work that expresses the passion, determination and dreams of our students. He really connected with the students and transformed their experiences into music. I think the students will remember this affirming experience for years to come.” — Steven Marc Weiss, Director, Marquis Series, Coe College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
“People are still talking about your wonderful performance!”
— Julie Garnsey, Executive Director, Clayton Opera House (Clayton, NY)
“Daniel Kelly’s piece blew me away. It engaged me on every level. The melodies, the harmony, the words, the instrumentation, the whole idea! It was brilliantly conceived and executed. It was so moving it practically brought me to tears.”
— Joel Harrison, Guggenheim Award-winning composer, guitarist & educator
"Working with Daniel Kelly remains one of my most treasured career experiences."
— Amy Flack, Executive Director, Community Performance Series
What’s the creative process in creating a piece?
- Daniel partners with a local cultural institution (Performing Arts Center) and they decide on a theme of the concert.
- Through the organizations connections and research, Daniel meets with several community members and records the interviews. In the past, Daniel has visited schools, senior centers, churches, synagogues, business owners, historians, etc.
- Daniel goes home & listens to the interviews. Then he composes music based upon the conversations – inspired by the people and what they had to say.
- Edited portions of the interviews are interwoven between the musical pieces. They usually preface the composition they inspired.
- Daniel returns a couple months later to perform the final concert with his 5-piece band, featuring some of New York City’s finest talents.
- When people come to the concert, they hear their own voices and those of their neighbors set in the context of a musical suite.
- In some instances, Daniel is able to collaborate with a local musician who performs with the group in the final concert. Guest have ranged from fiddle players to musicians who play the Chinese pipa.
These works can be performed as set pieces or new pieces can be commissioned by performing arts centers focusing on a theme relevant to the community.
Please contact Tiffany Goodman at Goodman Artists in regards to a new commission for your venue.