Bringing Classical Music to Concert Halls and the Homeless


MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins has brought her music to some of the world’s greatest concert halls, but also to tens of thousands more in havens who might never have had the chance to hear it.

Violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins(Kelly Hall-Tompkins)

The solo violinist, who performs with orchestras across the country and the world, created her Music Kitchen– Food for the Soul in 2005. She got the idea for Music Kitchen while volunteering as a cook in the shelter of her church and decided to practice a piece she was working on at the time. The positive reactions from shelter clients to her violin performance led her to think about creating a program to introduce classical music to those who might not otherwise hear it.

Kelly Hall-Tompkins and pianist Emanuel Ax perform at a shelter.
Kelly Hall-Tompkins and pianist Emanuel Ax perform at a shelter.(Kelly Hall-Tompkins)

Through more than 100 concerts, classical artists have performed for some 30,000 people experiencing homelessness since that time. Hall-Tompkins said, “I’ve seen transformative experiences and transformative reactions. There is one who stays with me. One of our clients said, “My life changed forever because you were here today. I will never forget this day.

She added that another guest at the shelter said: ‘It’s such a blessing. You play with so much compassion. I had a tough day and I’ll take that with me for the rest of the week.

Audience members react to a performance by Music Kitchen--Food for the Soul.
Audience members react to a performance by Music Kitchen–Food for the Soul.(Kelly Hall-Tompkins)

For her work through Music Kitchen Food for the Soul, The New York Times named Hall-Tompkins “New Yorker of the Year.” The same publication artistically described her as “the versatile violinist who brings music to life”.

Audience members applaud a Music Kitchen Food for the Soul performance.
Audience members applaud a Music Kitchen Food for the Soul performance.(Kelly Hall-Tompkins)

Hall-Tompkins said she started playing the violin when she was 9 years old.

“You know, I just fell in love with it. I think it was somewhere in my blood. I eliminated the music from my environment. I think the influences I had around me were the Church Lutheran music and baroque music from my Lutheran church but also Warner Brothers cartoons believe it or not I heard some on a Sunday on a Saturday And then when my primary school took us to listen to the local orchestra , I was absolutely transfixed. I remember hanging on the balcony and listening. I think the solo violin played Sheherazade solo. So naturally, I was very drawn to that. And then when a string quartet came to my elementary school afterwards, I said that was what I wanted to do.

Kelly Hall-Tompkins played her violin in a church as a child.
Kelly Hall-Tompkins played her violin in a church as a child.(Kelly Hall-Tompkins)

Hall-Tompkins, who speaks eight different languages ​​and was Fiddler’s solo violinist in the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof for over a year, will perform the Madison premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto with the Madison Symphony Orchestra this weekend.

Hall-Tompkins said, “First of all, the Hall opening is beautiful. I can not wait to go there. It is simply magnificent. And I can’t wait to play with the Madison Symphony. This violin concerto by Wynton Marsalis is simply extraordinary. I look forward to being with you all this weekend. It’s just an amazing piece that draws from a lot of my life experience and a lot of the music I’ve made – both the classical canon and pushing the boundaries beyond classical music – so I really love getting to know this amazing piece, and I can’t wait to share it.

MSO Gig Chart
MSO Gig Chart(Madison Symphony Orchestra)

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