StreetWise: Tell me about yourself, Leonard.
Leonard: My name is Leonard and I’m a jazz musician. I play piano. I am 64 years old and I’ve been playing professionally since 17. That’s my passion… playing music. I love jazz. I just recently got out of jail. I was locked up for possession. That is how I came to StreetWise. I was born and raised in Chicago, so everything I have heard about StreetWise is positive. By me participating in StreetWise personally, I respect everything the program has to offer. Like the motto says, it is a hand-up, not a handout, and I respect that. I hopefully – with the help of StreetWise – will get myself together and get my own place. Get back into music without the drugs and go from there.
SW: What brought you to StreetWise?
Leonard: I was really trying to see if they could help me get a low-income apartment for seniors. And to make a little money, have a little car-fare and money to eat with by selling the magazine.
SW: What are your short-term goals?
Leonard: I would definitely like to have my own place… something that I can afford and hopefully it can be permanent. I would really like to get back into my music with more sincerity… with more sincerity and with sobriety, instead of drugs.
SW: What brought you to music in the first place?
Leonard: I always wanted to be a jazz musician. The first time I heard Miles Davis, John Coletrain, Herbie Hancock, I was like “I want to play like that. That’s how I’m gonna play.”
SW: What are your long-term goals?
Leonard: To be doing what I love to do. To have happiness and tranquility.
SW: What is the greatest challenge you faced?
Leonard: Trying to be a better musician without the drugs. I am from the older school where I thought it goes with the turf. As I get older and wiser, I realize it is the wrong way of thinking. You can be a better musician without the drugs.
SW: What motivates you?
Leonard: When you get to my age you have to figure out what is your calling. I know music is my calling. Some of the things I have been through in the last couple of years, I would like to be an advocate to help the homeless, the poor, and the downtrodden. Whatever I can help them do to get a leg up, would be a calling for me.
SW: What is your support system?
Leonard: Well I have great family members. My mom. I have three wonderful sons. A daughter. Grandkids. So I have a lot of family support.
SW: How do they support you?
Leonard: My two youngest sons are in college. Southern Illinois University. They are very supportive. They just asked me to promise them that I will stay on the right path this time, ‘you are gonna stay on the right road.’ OK, son, I promise you.
SW: Anything else you would like to add?
Leonard: I would like to see more harmony. Less racism. We are all earthlings. Beings on this little planet. More joy, harmony, peace and love.
Brittany Langmeyer & Phil Mannella, StreetWise Staff & StreetWise Intern