“I grew up singing in the church, and as I got older, opportunities and doors just opened,” Livingston said.
She has performed across the U.S., throughout Jamaica and in Italy. She eventually got drained from all of the traveling and came back to New York.
That is when she decided to found the Jazz Ensemble at Family Residences and Essential Enterprises (FREE), an organization for adults with special needs.
The group is heading into its fourth year together, and Livingston said it has been a great success thus far. What started as a six-person group has grown to 12 talented singers.
“They each have their special needs and different diagnoses, but they all have their special abilities and talents,” Livingston said of her performers.
The Jazz Ensemble has performed at numerous events around Queens and Brooklyn, including at Queens College, Citi Field and most recently at a fundraising event for Kiwanis in Maspeth.
“I just want them to experience some of the things that I’ve experienced, like being able to go abroad,” Livingston said of her reasoning for starting the group. “It’s just being able to do your passion. They love to sing, I love to sing.”
Besides the vocal group, Livingston is also in charge of a job-based program that trains and prepares adults at FREE for jobs in the community, and runs an advocacy group that conducts community outreach to show everyone that the individuals at FREE “are people too.”
“We don’t want them to be excluded because of the fact that they’ve been diagnosed or labeled,” Livingston said. “Take away the label and respect the fact that we’re all people.”