You created “A Night to Inspiration” an enormously successful all -star concert that promotes diversity and unity at the iconic Carnage Hall. How did that come to be?
The Carnegie Hall relationship started when they brought me in to produce a number events from them with Jessye Norman for her “Honor: A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy”. I produced the opening night at Carnegie Hall and closing night at the Apollo. After that that opened the door that was the corridor that led to us starting our own events at Carnegie Hall. They liked what I did. They asked me to bring in some of my ideas and produce a couple of shows here. I said to them I have a show idea. I spoke to Viv and they said wow. We can fill the stage with some great artists. We can bring secular and inspirational artists together on the same stage. We can have a big orchestra in the back with mass choir. Then she said not mass not that big. ( laughs) Then she said that’s going to be pretty expensive. ( laughs) I said it’s going to be what it’s going to be and together we went after it. It was a gravel road. Be we got there together and we are going to do our fourth iteration of this.
I’ve gone to Carnegie Hall and experienced Black artists. I’ve gone and I’ve experienced Tituss Burgess, Angelique Kidjo. But that audience, that two thousand eight hundred set of eyes are not our eyes. What A Night of Inspiration has brought since 2010 is diversity in their audience that have never experienced before. And we’ve allowed our community to come down to Carnegie Hall to experience what we give them. Every single time Ray and I sit back in the dressing room afterwards and take a breath and know that we’ve done some good. That we’ve opened some peoples eyes and given them an experience that would of never had before. Every year we end with Richard Smallwood’s “Total<br />
Praise”. To look out in that audience and see that Black hand holding that white hand together at that moment we know that we’ve changed people.
By the way that entire audience Black and White sings that along with us. We fill the aisle with choir and on that big stage. It’s big big moment. It’s truly wonderful. That is one of my most fulfilling moments where as I’m conducting the orchestra I’ve actually turned around and just drank that in. I’ve watched the entire audience sing Total Praise.
Tell us about the mission of your philanthropic Power 2 Inspire Foundation?
In 2013 Ray and I were having a moment and thinking about how incredibly blessed we’ve been in our careers. We have always had young people come to us and say they want to do what we do. We would say we want you to what we do but better. So it was like how do we make them better. In 2019 we decided to do an in person internship mentorship program. So we secured positions. We had Carnegie Hall, American Federation of Musicians, Island Records and then the pandemic hit. It was the best thing that could of happened actually for this foundation. Instead of just giving a small amount of New York and New Jersey based kids this opportunity we were able to open up to the world. In 2020 we had 25 young people from the U.S. and U.K. Last year we had 60 from U.S. Jamaica, Ghana all the way to New Delhi, India. This young lady logged on 9 hours ahead of us. And we do it via zoom and we expose them to some of the most incredible singers, songwriters, musicians, producers, and music industry leaders for four weeks virtually. These young people have gone on to make us so proud. Power 2 Inspire’s mission is to enrich the lives of any young person that wants to be involved in music. But in the response to the George Floyd’s murder Ray and I very strategically said this is an opportunity that we have to give our Black and Brown babies. Our summer internship program is specifically for that but Power 2 Inspire offers masterclasses. Ray and I travel we talk to kids of all ethnicities. It’s one of the things we are very proud of that.
It actually precedes that. It started when I would be asked to go to schools during Black History Month. That was kind of the genesis and the spirit of this. My mother instilled a sense of altruism in me. Because she was a social worker amongst many things. She would take me into the most struggled part of the community and teach me how to give to the community. To contribute something positive. I remember when my daughter was in school and the teachers would invite me and say do you have a program during Black History Month. I would say sure I have a program. The school would put on a little reel of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. That was Black history. I was like I think we’ve missed a few things here. I would had a program I gave them African Hip Hop. It was a chronology of American music through the Black experience. From the drums of Africa to jazz and hip hop. In knowing that that experience it certainly rang a bell in my system. If we don’t do this then who will. So that’s why we kind of focused after the death of George Floyd. Let’s get this message. Let’s talk to some Black and Brown people. There are other programs but if we don’t collectively educate and talk to young Black people who will? They’re not doing it in regular schools so it’s incumbent upon us to do that.
2020 was a very powerful year that we were able to start this. Yes we were talking to these young people about what they wanted to do creatively but we also road that ride that we did of such pain and horror of what we had experienced. Ray and I not only became mentors to them in their careers but to them in life. One of the things that came out was the need to have the conversation in our community about mental wellness. So there is a woman that we’ve engaged named Shante Dass. She has an amazing organization called Silence The Shame. Shante works along with us in identifying Black therapists for a lot of our kids. In our closing one we have our Assistant Pastor from our church come and just put a seed into these young people. So that this is the last day of the program we are not going to let you go we got you covered. It’s more than just learning how to make a beat or how to write a lyric. We really put everything we have into these young people. And they give it back to us. We have some that are working in our studio right now. Ray has used one of the young men on Dancing With The Stars. We are getting ready for the next one this year.
You are both leaders, pioneers, trailblazers. What advice would you give to this new generation of leaders in the music industry?
We are stewards of this industry. It belongs to us at the moment and then it belongs to others. As a steward you have the responsibility to make sure that this wonderful craft and industry itself has the kind of integrity that we would always wish and hope for. I instill that in young people. Go for it. But make sure you go for it with some real integrity and intent.
I had a very stern father. I would come home very excited with a 90 on a test. He would say that’s cool. Did anyone get 100? I would say yes. He said, “You figure out what they did to get that 100.” I have taken that mentality that 99 just isn’t enough. I learn from Ray the art of being intentional. That is definitely something we talk about a lot and how precious time is and how it’s something you can never ever regain. To use your time, be intentional and be at that 100 percent.
TALENT: RAY CHEW @raychewlive
VIVIAN SCOTT CHEW @vivianscottchew
Creative direction: @iammusajackson
Vivian: Jacket – White Fox Dyed Pink @usa_raw_skin
Earrings- @EricksonBeamon @showroomseven
Ray: Coat – @Roberto_Cavalli
Shirt – @Boss
Pants: @ClarkSabbat RAY & VIVIAN CHEW:
A LOVE SUPREME