Local Ensemble Works Toward Obesity Awareness

Originally appeared in the Boston Guardian - 5/19/17

{Boston Guardian} Fenway-based musician Kristo Kondakçi credits “Eureka Moments” with helping to create a new student-run ensemble to perform at various downtown locations. These are moments, says the 25-year-old conductor and New England Conservatory (NEC) graduate, when young musicians are asked to imagine the possibility that, while performing, “everyone loves you.” “Imagine if you could just move about the world knowing that everyone loves and only wants the best for you,” said Kondakçi, who founded the Eureka Ensemble last September. “How do you think that affects your posture? Everything changes.”

Kondakçi, also an assistant conductor of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, said the experience of working with at-risk and underprivileged children throughout the city has helped him realize the power of music to animate and inspire. “I’d go into these camps and train these kids to play certain rhythms,” he said. “Then I’d bring them on stage to perform in front of 10,000 people. It’s amazing to see these kids who were once very shy suddenly open up.” Kondakçi has received numerous recognitions during his time at NEC. Having conducted since the age of 16, he said he fell in love with music at 11 after teaching himself piano. “I still feel like that 11-year-old,” he said.

The Eureka Ensemble, which debuted Sunday at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul off Tremont Street, consists primarily of students from the NEC and the Boston Conservatory, he said. The group, run by Kondakçi and friend Alan Toda-Ambaras, is partnering with Eradicate Childhood Obesity Foundation (EChO), a national organization, to raise awareness of the harmful effects of added sugar in the American diet. “We’re trying to figure out a way to use music as an active learning strategy in nutrition,” said Kondakçi. “Our mission is to use music as a platform for social action and community engage, and to serve artistically underserved audiences, including the musicians themselves.” Cellist and Eureka co-founder Toda-Ambaras, having helped put together music programs that have featured scientists, philosophers and visual artists, said that he “treats music as a bridge to connect different communities.”

“As classical musicians we have a special privilege that translated into responsibility to be aware of what’s going on in our world,” he said. Kondakçi said he hopes to raise enough money through community performances to pay all of the musicians a living wage. The group is putting together a performance in collaboration with EChO slated for next spring.

by Tanner Stening