Harriet Bushman was born and raised in London in a musical family. From a very young age, she knew she wanted to be a pianist and loved to practice, so it was no surprise to her family when she decided to be a professional musician. She attended the Royal Academy of Music in London and graduated with a special prize for piano.
After the Academy, she studied under many talented teachers in Florence, Rome, Lausanne and Geneva. Her repertoire includes many concerts as a soloist, a chamber musician and as a concerto artist where she has charmed audiences with her skill. Aside from her passion for music, she is deeply committed to her philanthropic work.
Would you kindly discuss details about the charity concert?
The concert will happen next Friday, 6th June, at 7pm. It will be at our house in Adan and we hope it will be very well attended. The program will consist of songs and arias sung by the young and wonderful opera singer Lena Damarjian. Lena is quite new to Kuwait and is an international song competition winner. She has a beautiful soprano voice and will sing arias from Puccini’s Tosca and Gianni Schicchi, Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, and songs by Rachmaninoff and others. The second part of the concert will be the immortal Schubert String Quintet in C major played by the Messila Chamber Ensemble consisting of a wonderful set of international players from Romania, Poland, USA, UK and Kuwait. The concert will last about 70 minutes and will be followed by an Italian Buffet kindly sponsored by Organica. People interested in attending should buy tickets as soon as possible for catering purposes.
How will the funds of the concert benefit the village?
The funds will benefit the village by providing water buffaloes which are so essential to rural and agricultural life in the Philippines. When Typhoon Yolanda happened last year on 8 November 2013, the small village of Cagnocot on the island of Leyte was destroyed: houses were smashed, crops were destroyed, animals were washed away and there was virtually nothing left. This is the third of such concerts to help the 555 families that live in this small, remote village which has had to rely on the international community for any help at all.
As reported on the BBC News, ‘the government simply does not have the resources to provide this kind of aid’ so in December, we held a concert to provide emergency food of rice and dried fish for each of the 3,100 people in this village. We followed this up with seedlings of quick-growing crops so as to get food growing as soon as possible for the village to feed itself.
After that, what is most needed is water buffalo, caribou, so that the collapsed houses, trees and other results of the devastation can be moved and allow rebuilding take place. Each buffalo costs in the region of US$ 750 and must be shipped onto Leyte from another island. So far we have been able to buy 13 buffaloes and need at least 25 more. We have a website called www.rebuildavillage.org which gives all the details of this fundraising effort.
What other philanthropic activities have you been involved in?
Five years ago I started a small silk company called Agapanthus, www.agapanthus-silk.com and the point from the beginning was to make money to help get artistic scholarships and performing experience for less-privileged children, wherever they were. I have held workshops and mounted performances during several summers in Britain and have included many children who have discovered that performing provides an inspiring and unexpected opportunity for growth and development. Musical theatre teaches the most basic of life’s disciplines – team work, responsibility, dependability – in the most fun way.
Some of the children who have attended have found that they can express themselves through song and dance and this has been an entirely enriching and novel experience. They have found a place for themselves that they never imagined and, despite the hard work, have discovered that there is profound satisfaction in achieving a goal that demands their time, attention and complete dedication. Since I started, the selling of my silk products (shawls, robes, trousers, scarves, ties etc) has expanded to give money to whatever cause – great or small – comes to my attention and that I have enough for!
Where does your passion for philanthropic causes come from?
My mother has always loved and helped people who struggle. Our house was open to help people in trouble or sadness, and, for example, my sister and I used to be taken to the local home for old people to sing and play piano for them. I was very young and didn’t really understand or enjoy this much but we knew that it was the right thing to do. I was fortunate to have been born into a family that could educate and love me and I feel keenly that everyone deserves to have a chance in life. If I can provide help, I wish to, and I enjoy creating opportunities such as this for the community to pool resources and reach many more people in need.
In your opinion, can philanthropic concerts inculcate a deeper empathy for suffering people?
Yes, I am certain that most people empathise on a superficial level when they see suffering around them, or in the news. However, for some reason the distance from brain to pocket sometimes seems immeasurable and we find ourselves saying ‘Oh dear, poor them’, and rushing off to the next thing in our lives without doing anything to help.
When you create a charity concert, people sit down and listen to some of the greatest music ever written which anyway should not fail to stir their hearts. Add to this the reason for sitting there in the first place and we hope that our guests will feel that while they are listening in peace and comfort to glorious harmony, others are fighting against untold odds to feed/clothe/educate their children and that it behoves us to dig deep and share our well-being.
Can you please tell me what other concerts you are participating in?
Our musical life in Kuwait is varied and wonderful. My husband conducts and directs the Ahmadi Music Group and we put on opera, oratorio, jazz, musical theatre and involve large numbers of the community in doing so. We participate in the excellent Dar Music Circle concerts and often play in small groups for public functions. I have played recently with some marvellous visiting Belgian violinists, and for British Great week with the visiting British violinist, Madeleine Mitchell who has now invited me to tour with her in her next international concert series.
What feelings arise when you perform?
I am passionate about my work as a musician and there is some sort of miracle that occurs when playing the work of the great composers. It is a great privilege to be able to share in the interpretation of such compositions and so gratitude is one of the prevailing emotions.
Working with talented colleagues as I do in my work as an accompanist, I am struck by the variety of musical gifts that musicians have. Each one is different and I like the challenge of matching and supporting their strengths and contributing my own musical input. Making music has to be one of the most wonderful things in life and now that my children are grown and off in their own lives, I am loving full-time playing, practising and performing again.
How reaffirming is the charity work you are doing?
Completely, and I mean completely in the sense that having received good things in life myself, the circle would not be complete without good things being sent out. The happiest people I know are the ones who give – time, love, money, it doesn’t matter.
Please tell me about the special guests at the concert?
The concert will be attended by Kuwaitis, expats, diplomats and anyone who would like to buy a ticket and come. Tickets are KD 15 which includes the concert and the dinner. All the musicians are dedicating their time and we hope to raise a large amount of money. Again, anyone who would like to come should call me, 9728 8853, and book soon!
Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?
There are many – I suppose on a huge scale, Bill Gates would be one. Another is the genius who started the LandPhilarmonic (making instruments out of trash) and El Sistema in Venezuela which teaches children from the poorest possible communities to play and perform music.
Why is helping the Philippine village such an important issue for you?
Amongst the literally millions of needy people and causes that we could be contributing to, this one surfaced through a friend, Adam Savage, who knows the small struggling community very well. Through Adam and his wife, we are able to channel the money directly to where it is needed without losing any through administration costs. I feel that this is the way our money can be most valuable, and it is important for people who give to know that none is syphoned off and away from the designated recipients – the farming village off 555 families in Cagnocot.
Special Concert to
Benefit Philippine village
On Friday 6 June at 7 pm, Harriet and Richard Bushman will host a charity concert at home. The music will consist of operatic arias performed by an exciting new singer, and Franz Schubert’s immortal C major Cello Quintet.
There will be a delicious Italian buffet catered and sponsored by the fabulous and healthy Organica Pasta & Pizza. Please come and enjoy a great evening and support this worthy and urgent cause. Call 97288859 or 97288853 for info, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets are 15 KD each, and please buy some raffle tickets as well when you arrive, and the concert will take place at the following address: Adan, block 7, street 2, house 48.