It's a Revolution!! Weekly Inspiration from Melissa Ngan

This week's inspiration comes from our fearless leader: Fifth House Ensemble Executive Director & fabulous flutist, Melissa Ngan.  Read to the end of the post to find out where she got that giant (and oh so yummy looking!) carrot!  And check back at the end of each week to see what's inspiring Fifth House Ensemble members & their work!


It's no secret that I like to eat things, and consequently, I like to cook things.

That being the case, I've watched a healthy amount of Food Network in my adult life, and have gotten to try/fail/succeed at re-creating the recipes of many of their superchefs.

So, clearly I was intrigued over a year ago to find that Jamie Oliver was launching his own show on ABC. Jamie's Food Revolution turned out not to be another spin on a cooking show - rather, it was about bringing healthy meals and restoring a home food culture to one American town at a time.

Responding to what he calls a major epidemic in this country, Jamie battles food-related illnesses including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes with a butcher block and a pan.

His approach has multiple levels:

  1. Set up a community kitchen where families can come together to learn how to cook simple, healthy meals
  2. Promote the aforementioned kitchen through open events in the community, including mass cooking days and flash mobs
  3. Work with a single family to REALLY assess what they're eating (fast food) and develop a plan for re-lighting the stove
  4. Get into the school system to implement scratch cooking instead of airplane meals for kids (and banish flavored milk)
  5. Partner with a local fast food restaurant to create a new menu that is affordable, tasty, and healthy

Full disclosure - the first few episodes I watched made me cry, laugh, gag, and cry some more. And then I started to think about the potential effects of Jamie's work.Here's a guy who's using his talent for something he feels strongly about as an agent of change. He's bringing something as simple, yet essential, to the human condition as good food to communities that (speaking in wide generalities here) have forgotten what it is to have a food culture passed down from generations of grandmas with aprons, in favor of cartoon animals on a box.

When I saw him create lesson plans for each subject within a Los Angeles high school, the reason I've been attached to this show finally hit me over the head like a frying pan. Replace food with music, and you've got our mission (on a plate).

Jamie could easily have continued to spend all of his time building his restaurants and his status as a celebrity chef. Instead, he's balancing all that with a concerted effort to make what he does matter,  not just to other chefs who might be jealous of his achievements, but to the general public who can really benefit from some simple, common-sense knowledge about food.

It's no wonder that he was awarded the TED Prize in 2010 - check out his prize wish video here:

People ask us all the time why we spend the time creating performance experiences that are unexpected, working with academic classroom teachers to develop arts-integrated lesson plans, and finding places to play in the community that extend past the traditional concert hall.

It's because it matters.

Whether people know it or not, sounds, music, art, and culture are as essential a part of their lives as clean air and nourishment. Absent these things, we end up in a state of dis-ease - sleep, work, TV, bed, reboot.At 5HE, we spend a lot of our time mastering our craft. That's a given. But I think some of our most inspirational moments have come from the extensive time we spend finding ways to connect with folks who aren't part of that 3% that are already plugged into the classical music pipeline.

I'm inspired when I see audiences transported by the music we play and the stories we tell. I'm inspired when I see members of my group bring creativity and confidence out of students who have been stuck in a pattern of disengagement. And I'm inspired to find that our audiences really are the inspiration for what we do next.

(and yes, I grew that carrot myself) Fifth House Ensemble