Meet the Seriously Talented Young Siblings Who Play Classical Music in the Subway to Raise Money for the Homeless
Lauren, Ashleigh and Christian Conner use their gift of music to raise money for the homeless by busking in the subway
Lauren, Ashleigh and Christian Conner have been studying music since they were toddlers. Violinists and a cellist, the trio of siblings has long had a heart for music.
But when they moved to New York from New Jersey last year and saw the number of homeless people in the city’s streets, they realized they had a heart for much more.
“I saw [the homeless people] on the street and I felt sad for them,” Christian, 9, tells PEOPLE.
The three moved from Sussex County in October with their parents, Zenobia and Keith Conner. Zenobia says that from the moment the family got to the city, Christian wanted to help.
She tells PEOPLE that the young cellist would repeatedly ask her for money to give to the less fortunate and, after awhile, she said, “If you want to give some money to the homeless, then go out there and play your cello.”
And play he did. Christian and his sisters, 10-year-old Ashleigh and 11-year-old Lauren (both violinists), decided to take to the Fulton Street subway station to play music with hopes of raising enough money to give to the less fortunate.
Last week, the three siblings set up their music stands in a corner of the bustling station. Ashleigh tells PEOPLE that on their first day, they played for two hours and raised a little more than $240. The three play works by composers like Beethoven, Bach and Karl Jenkins as onlookers in the station watch in amazement.
So far, the musicians have raised nearly $500, Zenobia tells PEOPLE. The kids plan to give the money to the homeless once they raise a large amount. But Ashleigh says that her little brother is eager to help out as soon as he can.
“[Christian] gets sad. If he doesn’t have money to give to [the homeless], he gets sad,” Ashleigh tells PEOPLE. “So he’s like, ‘I really need that money.’ ”
The kids say they plan to give a portion of the money they raise to the poor and will put the rest toward a new computer for the family. Once they buy the device, they plan to allocate more money for the homeless.
As the school year gets underway, the kids plan to play on the weekends. But their efforts to help the less fortunate don’t end with the homeless.
Lauren tells PEOPLE that she and her siblings will busk around Halloween time for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, a fundraising program for children in need.
When they aren’t busy wowing commuters in the subway, the three siblings, who also play classical music for sick children at Columbia Presbyterian Children’s Hospital, are pretty much like any other children. When they’re not playing music, they enjoy writing, reading and watching movies.
All three of the children began playing music when they were around 3 years old. Christian says he saw cellist Yo-Yo Ma play in concert when he was younger and knew then that he wanted to play the cello. His mom immediately paired him up with his first teacher, Sue Tsay of Sussex County, New Jersey.
Lauren and Ashleigh have studied for most of their lives under Aimee Morrill Briant of Mine Hill, New Jersey. All three are also part of The Chamber Music Center of New York, a non-profit organization dedicated to the performance and promotion of chamber music in the city.
The kids have spent most of their lives cultivating their passion for music. But Ashleigh says she and her brother and sister do it all for one reason: to “make money so I can pay for college.”
Ashleigh is debating between attending Harvard University or an arts college. But Lauren has her mind made up, she wants to attend Harvard Medical School (she says she enjoys people calling her a “smarty pants”).
The trio of music lovers is a tight-knit group. And Ashleigh says they always plan to stick together. The 10-year-old tells PEOPLE that she and her siblings will all live in “one big mansion.”
As for Zenobia, her plans for her children include nothing short of their own happiness.
“I really want them to do something that has meaning for them, that they love doing,” the mother of three tells PEOPLE. “As far as I’m concerned, if you can get paid for doing something you would do for free, you’ve pretty much got it made, so I want them to do something that they really love.”