Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Mantras of love

Homeless outreach Voices of Our City Choir brings music to the streets

Nina Leilani and Steph Johnson (third and fourth from left, respectively) lead the homeless in Voices of Our City Choir. - Image by Rob Thorsen
Nina Leilani and Steph Johnson (third and fourth from left, respectively) lead the homeless in Voices of Our City Choir.

Soul-jazz vocalist Steph Johnson is involved in activism relating to the homeless in San Diego, culminating in the formation of the Voices of Our City Choir, a group she co-leads with Nina Leilani that blends working musicians with people struggling to survive on the streets. Johnson explains her motivations: “The biggest issue is that these folks aren’t treated humanely at all,” says the singer. “They are being arrested and put in jail instead of being helped. I meet people who are literally dying of cancer, and they have to struggle to get an appointment for a bed somewhere. It’s so hard, and then they get ticketed. It’s unbelievable.”

Nina Leilani: "She broke my heart with the numbers of people being affected and the total negligence of the city."

Johnson gave a presentation on the homeless for a symposium Leilani attended.

“She broke my heart with the numbers of people being affected and the total negligence of the city,” said Leilani. “There were so many of us that knew something needed to be done — even if we didn’t know how to do it, we were going to try.”

Johnson, Leilani, and 35 other musicians showed up at city hall to make their case.

“We all looked at the council and pleaded for something to be done, but I could tell that they didn’t give a fuck — they were rolling their eyes. I realized then I could continue to waste my time there or I could create something musical that would appeal to the people I met on the street, many of who were musicians and singer-songwriters.”

Johnson floated the idea of a homeless choir to Leilani.

“Nina was, like, ‘Hell, yes, let’s do it.’ She’s an incredible choir director — I couldn’t do all the stuff she does. This has become a real choir. We created a place where people could come two times a week and hang out and make music.”

She says she feels a special power coming from the group.

“We have this mix of professional singers and people with music in their background with everyday people and that blend is magical. Taylor guitars even donated an instrument! Now we’re up to 25 people and that number grows every week. We partnered with pastor Chris Nafis of the Living Water Church. He is totally legit — he really cares about these people — and there’s a feeling of hope in the area because of that.”

Place

Bread & Salt

1955 Julian Avenue, San Diego

Leilani has been assembling relevant material for the group, which also features bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Leah Bowden.

“We’re looking for stuff that’s transcendent,” says Leilani. “And to build on these mantras of love. We watch people walking down the street after rehearsals still singing, and that’s inspiring”

The debut performance of the Voices of Our City Choir takes place on December 4 at Bread & Salt (1955 Julian Avenue) at 7 p.m. when they share the stage with the Steph Johnson Band.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Mark Dresser’s musicianship cuts through it all

Long-time UCSD professor’s telematics trials
Next Article

"We had to get canning quickly"

In response to covid, these small brewers now offer beer in cans for the first time
Nina Leilani and Steph Johnson (third and fourth from left, respectively) lead the homeless in Voices of Our City Choir. - Image by Rob Thorsen
Nina Leilani and Steph Johnson (third and fourth from left, respectively) lead the homeless in Voices of Our City Choir.

Soul-jazz vocalist Steph Johnson is involved in activism relating to the homeless in San Diego, culminating in the formation of the Voices of Our City Choir, a group she co-leads with Nina Leilani that blends working musicians with people struggling to survive on the streets. Johnson explains her motivations: “The biggest issue is that these folks aren’t treated humanely at all,” says the singer. “They are being arrested and put in jail instead of being helped. I meet people who are literally dying of cancer, and they have to struggle to get an appointment for a bed somewhere. It’s so hard, and then they get ticketed. It’s unbelievable.”

Nina Leilani: "She broke my heart with the numbers of people being affected and the total negligence of the city."

Johnson gave a presentation on the homeless for a symposium Leilani attended.

“She broke my heart with the numbers of people being affected and the total negligence of the city,” said Leilani. “There were so many of us that knew something needed to be done — even if we didn’t know how to do it, we were going to try.”

Johnson, Leilani, and 35 other musicians showed up at city hall to make their case.

“We all looked at the council and pleaded for something to be done, but I could tell that they didn’t give a fuck — they were rolling their eyes. I realized then I could continue to waste my time there or I could create something musical that would appeal to the people I met on the street, many of who were musicians and singer-songwriters.”

Johnson floated the idea of a homeless choir to Leilani.

“Nina was, like, ‘Hell, yes, let’s do it.’ She’s an incredible choir director — I couldn’t do all the stuff she does. This has become a real choir. We created a place where people could come two times a week and hang out and make music.”

She says she feels a special power coming from the group.

“We have this mix of professional singers and people with music in their background with everyday people and that blend is magical. Taylor guitars even donated an instrument! Now we’re up to 25 people and that number grows every week. We partnered with pastor Chris Nafis of the Living Water Church. He is totally legit — he really cares about these people — and there’s a feeling of hope in the area because of that.”

Place

Bread & Salt

1955 Julian Avenue, San Diego

Leilani has been assembling relevant material for the group, which also features bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Leah Bowden.

“We’re looking for stuff that’s transcendent,” says Leilani. “And to build on these mantras of love. We watch people walking down the street after rehearsals still singing, and that’s inspiring”

The debut performance of the Voices of Our City Choir takes place on December 4 at Bread & Salt (1955 Julian Avenue) at 7 p.m. when they share the stage with the Steph Johnson Band.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Football: a career low for Lucille Ball

A darker shade of twilight
Next Article

Corbin’s Q’s Scrumptiously SLO barbecue

Dee-Lish. I mean, an exceptional combo of tastes.
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close