For the past 15 years, Lea Gilmore has been sharing her voice with the world as a gospel and blues singer, African-American music authority and civil and human rights lecturer, while balancing the duties of working mom, wife and civic activist.
Now, fresh off a tour of concerts and lectures in Siberia, the internationally acclaimed singer is back and preparing to launch a music program she developed for middle-schoolers and for a rare performance before a hometown audience.
"After taking music to children around the world, I decided it was time to bring it to the kids at home," Gilmore reflects.
Having conducted a feasibility study, gained the support of friends at the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center, Creative Alliance and Arts Every Day, and selected Franklin Square Elementary and Middle School as the pilot school, Gilmore is ready to unveil Baltimore Voices. She describes the project as a vocal arts, choral and spoken word program designed to engage students looking for the opportunity to make a difference through the arts.
"I called it Baltimore Voices because I want them to sing, but I also wanted them to learn to develop their own voice… there are some pockets of wonderful opportunities, like OrchKids, but there's no real vocal music, except at the high school level, like City College Choir. I wanted to work with middle school students who are the most at danger — most at risk for retention and other things," says Gilmore.
She says there will be no audition process. Instead, those students who express an enthusiasm for music and have the desire to participate will become "the voices." If all goes as planned, students will have experienced their first session before the end of January.
As if launching Baltimore Voices, working as a non-profit consultant and contributing as cultural correspondent for the Marc Steiner Radio Show are not enough to keep her busy, Gilmore is also preparing for an upcoming concert, a concert about which she is extremely excited.
"I hardly ever get to perform at home. So, I'm very excited about the concert. It will be the first time I've sung before a home crowd, in a very long time," she exclaims.
She will perform Feb. 3 at Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church, 6200 N. Charles St., in The Common Ground on the Hill Baltimore Concert Series. For ticket information, go to http://www.commongroundonthehill.org/concertticketsList.html.