Everyday Heroes: Listening to America

Daniel with Ira McIntosh

Daniel with Ira McIntosh

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 commissioned works, award-winning composer/pianist Daniel Kelly has traveled throughout the United States collecting stories from people of all ages & backgrounds.

Everyday Heroes: Listening to America seamlessly blends these recorded interviews with farmers, immigrants, hurricane survivors and many others with stunning, original music performed by Kelly’s band of world-class musicians.

Audiences around the country have been deeply moved by this relevant and powerful portrait of America in the 21st century.

Listen to the voices of Everyday Heroes:

After his wife passed away, this man raised his son by himself for many years. As a father, I completely relate to the love and pride he has for his son. Hearing a father express his love for his son was powerful, especially in the context of his neighborhood in Memphis where many young men are growing up without fathers. 

This song captures the wonder of nature as a 5-year old girl discovers that the bean she planted in her yard has sprouted into a plant! In another moment, she muses about change of seasons. There’s something so completely refreshing about hearing this from a young girl who is just learning about winter, spring, summer and fall.

I interviewed a fisherman who works along the coast of Long Island, NY and how his life and work were affected by Hurricane Sandy. To my surprise, this rugged sailor recited this fitting poem from memory written in the late 1800’s: “ ...the Sea is a harp, and the winds of God, Play over his rhythmic breast, And bear on the sweep of his mighty wings The song of a vast unrest.”

A triumph! The effects of Daniel Kelly’s concert are still being felt throughout the community
— Pam Weisberg, Director of Programming, Doctorow Center for the Arts (Hunter, NY)

I spoke with many survivors of Hurricanes Sandy and Irene who had lost their homes, their cars and all of their belongings. But thankfully, the people I had interviewed had not lost any loved ones in the hurricanes. Everyone in their families had lived through the storms. After having their lives completely upended and losing all their possessions, so many people said to me, “I can’t complain. We still have each other.” To this day, I am still moved when I think of them.

This is an arrangement of a folk song from the Adirondacks in upstate NY. I translated some of the lyrics that the characters into Spanish, giving new meaning to this poignant song about a young man looking for work on a farm.

A superb example of how the arts can be used to bring communities together in creative ways
— Jon Alger, President, James Madison University, (Harrisonburg, Virginia)

This piece is the introduction to a concert that was about a community on Long Island, New York that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The theme focused on how people helped one another through the crisis.

This is a fiddle tune that is popular in the area in and around the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, or the North Country, as it’s called. This piece features the tremendous fiddler, Gretchen Koehler, who I met during my visit there. Our musical relationship has grown into a duo project, Koehler & Kelly, that merges Irish & traditional fiddle playing with jazz piano. One of the fulfilling parts of this project is to have formed friendships with so many different people all throughout the US.  

…an uplifting celebration of our community in music and song. The audience was amazed…it really captured the spirit of our city.
— Leigh Woodham, Director, Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center (Belle Glade, Florida)