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Songs for the people

The New York Philharmonic hosts a night for nonprofit workers, complete with an 11-year-old composer

Miss America Nia Franklin speaks with 11-year-old composer Mack Scocca-Ho at a “Phil the Hall” event. Image from video

Songs for the people
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A New York moment:

The New York Philharmonic unbuttoned its top button last Friday and hosted a very blue-collar night at the symphony, offering $5 tickets to those who worked in nonprofits across the city. I got to join the party, where instead of martini-drenched season ticket holders, the concert hall filled with symphony neophytes taking selfies and clapping uproariously after every movement. It was pure fun.

The maestro Jaap van Zweden wore a Yankees ball cap with his tails, the concertmaster wore a Mets cap, and Miss America Nia Franklin stepped out in her crown between songs to provide commentary. The program was a little condescending, with only snippets from hits like Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9. New Yorkers, even us regular folks, can handle a full movement of a symphony.

The evening also featured compositions from New York students, part of a music program the Philharmonic does with local schools where students compose pieces and the Philharmonic performs them. An 11-year-old from a local public school, Mack Scocca-Ho, premiered his piece “Ociantrose” (the capital of his imaginary country). To introduce the piece, the diminutive Scocca-Ho trotted out on stage carrying the score, which was about half the size that he was. At the end of the piece, the maestro shook the boy’s hand, and the crowd went wild. The Philharmonic does a great job of involving average New Yorkers in its work: Every summer it plays free concerts in parks across the city, one of my favorite things all year.

Worth your time:

Fashionista interviews the evangelical sneaker nerd behind the Instagram account @PreachersNSneakers that documents how much pastors are shelling out for high-end footwear.

“I can’t think of a meaningful explanation as to why you would feel 100 percent OK with wearing a pair of boots that probably the majority of your congregation could never afford,” he says. “I am just here to say, ‘Whoa, homie’s wearing $800 track pants.’”

This week I learned:

Rats are multiplying even more than their usual furious rate because of our warm winter here. Great. Since I’ve lived in New York, I’ve had two incidents where a rat has run right into my foot as it scurried across the sidewalk. A big city rat running into you is a sensation you don’t forget—thanks for the memories, New York.

A court case you might not know about:

Parents in Rockland County, just north of New York City, have sued the county over its emergency measures to try to stop a months-long measles outbreak. The county had banned unvaccinated children from schools, a measure a federal judge has upheld for now. Another judge blocked the county’s effort to temporarily ban the unvaccinated from public gatherings.

Culture I am consuming:

Us, Jordan Peele’s new film. It’s a lot to unpack (maybe a little overpacked?), but interesting for Christian viewers in that it has a Biblical reference that keeps reappearing throughout the film, Jeremiah 11:11. The themes of judgment and reckoning I found convicting.

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at

Emily Belz

Emily is a former senior reporter for WORLD Magazine. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and also previously reported for the New York Daily News, The Indianapolis Star, and Philanthropy magazine. Emily resides in New York City.



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