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'The Soloist' film inspires food drive by orchestras

More than 170 orchestras have signed up to participate in a national food drive, inspired by the spring release of The Soloist, a film based on a true story about a musical prodigy with mental illness discovered in 2005 living on the streets of L.A.

"Orchestras Feeding America," set for March 27 and 28, is a collaborative project by the League of American Orchestras; Feeding America, described as "the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief charity"; and Participant Media, an L.A. entertainment company devoted to social change.  Participating ensembles in our state include the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra and Chespeake Youth Symphony Orchestra.

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The Soloist, set for nationwide release April 24, recounts the story of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (portrayed by Jamie Foxx), a former Juilliard scholarship student reduced to living on the streets. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.) happens upon Ayers playing on a violin with only two strings. The men slowly develop trust and friendship, which is challenged by the realization of Ayers' schizophrenia. Judging by the film's trailer, the on-screen message will underline what some of us have always known about classical music -- that, in the words of Orchestra League president/CEO Jesse Rosen, it "has the power to sustain spirits and change lives, even under the most difficult circumstances."

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