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10 homeless kids will get personalized lullabies this Mother's Day

The Seattle Symphony will perform five original lullabies at a free Mother's Day concert this weekend. And each lullaby was composed with help from a parent staying at a local homeless shelter.

It's part of the symphony's effort to address homelessness in its own way. 

Four-year-old Giovanny got to hear one of those new lullabies for the first time on Monday. His mother, Taylor Joffre, wrote it for him — and for his brother and sister — while they've been staying at a Mary's Place shelter.

"I wanted to let them know no matter what happened, that me and dad would always be there," Joffre said. "Because we’ve been through a lot. Like, it’s been really hard."

Part of the song goes like this: "No matter what happens, wherever we are, Mami and Papi, we love you so much."

Joffre, 24, has been homeless for nearly a year. She wants to go back to school and get a job as soon as she can find child care.

Ten lullabies were composed with help from homeless parents this year. The parents wrote about what they'd like to say to their children, and the symphony's musicians helped them convert those thoughts into songs.

The lullabies are part of a bigger effort by symphony musicians and staff to address homelessness. They also volunteer with local nonprofits that help homeless people meet basic needs.

But Symphony vice president Laura Reynolds said hope is a basic need, too. 

"If we are able to provide a moment of respite, a moment of joy and a moment where they can think about the future, I think that that is just as important to help people feel whole," she said.

Reynolds said the symphony tries to promote the work of partner nonprofits working to end homelessness across the region. And that effort has raised new questions about what role an arts organization can play in solving systemic inequity.

"How can we use our platform to share out with new audiences about the work that our partners our doing?" Reynolds said. "And how can we ourselves become closer to this issue so we each can become better advocates?"

King County had around 1,900 homeless children last year. Ten of those homeless kids, in five families, are getting personalized lullabies this year. 

It's a small gesture. But Joffre said she's grateful for what the Seattle Symphony is doing.

"It’s helpful," she said. "Now when I’m feeling down, I can listen to it and feel like everything’s going to be okay."

Produced for the web by Amy Rolph.

Year started with KUOW: 2009