Musicians Bring CONCERTS FOR HOPE to California Prisons
Eric Genuis has spent a lot of time in prison, even though he was never convicted of a crime. Now, he is about to return behind bars, when he and other musicians perform at several California prisons.
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, the classically trained pianist and composer now lives on a farm in Kentucky, but spends much of his time traveling throughout the United States, performing original compositions for people in prisons, homeless shelters and VA hospitals, as part of his nonprofit program, Concerts for Hope. The concerts are provided free of charge, at no cost to taxpayers.
The California tour will include Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, High Desert State Prison in Susanville, Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California State Prison in Lancaster, California State Prison in Centinela and Donovan State Prison in San Diego. Joining Genuis will be acclaimed cellist Simone Vitucci, violinist Yongxiang Ren, and soprano Cecily Gordon.
"As a society, we have become very comfortable with certain people being forgotten," he said. "I work with top-shelf musicians to bring beauty into the lives of people who are suffering emotionally and physically."
After graduating from Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music with a degree in piano performance, Genuis' musical career began, when he was invited to perform at an AIDS benefit in Poland, before an audience of 15,000. He moved to the United States in 1997.
Genuis has recorded albums, scored movies and performed in prestigious concert halls. Many of his compositions could be described as classical in style, but he considers his music to be more contemporary.
"When I write, I try to mimic some of the great classical forms, but my pieces tend to be a lot shorter and more intense than many classical works," he said. "I borrow from different genres."
For his nonprofit work, Genius has received support and high praise from several celebrities including former NFL star Matt Birk (Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings), actor Jim Caviezel ("The Passion of the Christ") and actor Kevin James ("The King of Queens").
"Words cannot convey the truly captivating, mesmerizing power his compositions have to embrace the soul emotionally, intellectually, purposefully," James wrote. "Each piece he presents showers a person with his personal interest, respect and love."
"Prisons are among the ugliest places on earth," Genuis said. "Inmates react strongly to beauty. When you immerse them in beauty, they look at life through glasses of hope and inspiration. If you remove that, they look at life through glasses of despair and discouragement."