ReelAbilities Festival Houston: Celebrating Lives, Stories & Talents

by Julie Tereshchuk on February 8, 2018 in Music,
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ReelAbilities is the largest festival in the country of its kind, and uses the arts as a vehicle to both educate and change perceptions about individuals with disabilities.

Launched nationally in New York City in 2007, Houston was the sixth of fourteen cities to host its unique version of ReelAbilities, adding to the visual art and musical components, programming in schools and corporations, and UP Abilities, an evening of extraordinary speakers. ReelAbilities Houston is considered among the most innovative in the nation and is, after NYC, the largest and most innovative in the nation.

Now in its sixth year, ReelAbilities Houston 2018 runs February 12-22. Intrigued by this unique festival, I interviewed Dee Dee Dochen, chair of ReelMusic.

ReelAbilities is a film festival, I believe. How does ReelMusic fit in?

The ReelMusic Jazz & Blues Jam, which will take place on Thursday, Feb. 22 at White Oak Music Hall, is the final – and very upbeat! – event capping the 2018 ReelAbilities Film & Arts Festival. Just as ReelAbilities Houston’s mission is to celebrate the lives, stories, and talents of people with disabilities who enrich Houston’s culture, diversity, and inclusion efforts, ReelMusic will, through the talents of musicians of all abilities, break down barriers, erase stigmas and advocate inclusion. There will be a cash bar and complimentary lite bites, but the event itself is free.

Who will play at ReelMusic; what’s the lineup?

Our house band consists of four of Houston’s top jazz musicians: Andrew Lienhard on keys, David Craig on bass, Daleton Lee on drums, and Kelly Dean on sax. We are inviting jazz or blues musicians and vocalists with visible or invisible disabilities to jam with us. (To sign up, go to ReelMusic, click on Reserve Tickets, and follow the prompts to the registration page.)


Do you have to register in order to jam?

In the true spirit of an inclusive jam, we welcome musicians with visible or invisible disabilities to step up on the night, but getting names in advance will definitely help ensure that everyone gets to participate.   

How long have you been involved, how did you get involved and what’s your role now?

I started as a fan of ReelAbilities six years ago and witnessed the magic of ReelMusic last year, which was its second year in the Festival. As a vocalist myself who has worked with people with disabilities, this mission and event are very near and dear to my heart. I am also on the board of Jewish Family Service, which produces ReelAbilities, so it is a triple honor to serve this year as chair and emcee of ReelMusic.

Why should our readers attend ReelMusic?

ReelMusic is an overall fun, jamming and spirited event and a one-of-a-kind experience that your readers won’t want to miss. And we’re really excited to be at White Oak Music Hall this year; that and our talent are taking ReelMusic up a notch. Come one, come all!

ReelAbilities Houston 2018 runs February 12-22 | All photos Mark Katz Photography