For four years I was Musician-in-Residence at Rush University Children's Hospital through Snow City Arts Foundation. Each year 40,000 hospitalized children regularly miss school because of their need for treatment. Snow City Artists provide meaningful arts education to these children, most between the ages of 6 and 18. We work (collaborate) with them to stimulate their minds, boost their confidence, and teach them that they are contributing members of the community's cultural dialogue. Our program provides a nurturing and supportive artistic environment that is the utmost positive expression of hope. "The doctors find the illness, we find the artist."

The Street Cries project was a year long collaboration with over 75 young patients at Rush Children's Hospital and their families, nurses, doctors and hospital staff. It was a celebration of the music of everyday life, specifically focusing on the calls of street vendors from around the world. We listened to recordings of street cries from past and present, and researched Chicago's rich and dramatic history of sound in the public domain. The recordings came from my own fieldwork in Chicago and Mexico City, archival recordings from the Smithsonian Folklife Institute, and recorded memories contributed by hospital staff and patients' family members. Some patients chose to create original street cries or one of the numerous characters that pass through their hospital room in the course of a day. The Street Cries project began as an exploration of the sounds of everyday living: musical tools used in daily life for practical effect. The children of Snow City Arts drew upon the unique heritage of this music to create compositions of their own that reflect the beauty, pain and humor of life in the hospital. The project culminated in a DVD with 4 channel audio and visuals, and was presented at David Weinberg Collection gallery in Chicago. Special thanks to Experimental Sound Studio for engineering.

Street Cries from Jamie Topper on Vimeo.

Process: Two glimpses into our working process of translating life experiences into original street cries.
1. Dynamite Chips process

2. Scans process

Research: Two examples of Smithsonian Folkways recordings of street vendors, used for reference and inspiration. We listened to several of these recordings and extraced a recipe for an effective street cry: find a lyrical way to describe what's on offer, stretch the words into a melodic line, add percussion for attention-grabbing effect, and repeat.

1.Watermelon vendors, New Orleans, 1956

2. Coal, Blackberries, Peaches