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The Arts As a Vehicle for Social Change

"This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

- Leonard Bernstein

Hi there! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, either due to laziness or feeling stuck. Just like garbage and debris impede the flow of a river, so can the circumstances of life impede creative energy. Now that most of the mental and psychological debris is out of the way, creative energy is flowing much more naturally and as a result, I intend to write more frequently.

Although it happened a few weeks ago, I would like to address the horrible events at Charlottesville. I was alarmed, dismayed, and outraged regarding such a blatant expression of hatred and white supremacy. I was also alarmed to have seen videos of Holocaust survivors and World War 2 veterans express concern over such a display of hatred. In the words of Senator Orin Hatch, “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”

In the face of such hatred, I believe that silence isn’t an option and that silence only permits hatred to exist. In my opinion, silence provides a tacit agreement with injustice. From my perspective, staying silent because I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing is also no excuse. I also realize that many kinds of hatred have been around for centuries and won’t disappear overnight and that the road to a justice is often long and winding. It takes as many good people as possible to create a more just society.

We all have different skills and gifts. Much of my work and non-work life is spent around music. Not only can the arts channel our emotions, but they can also bring us together when we’re not capable or ready to have necessary conversations. The arts get us in touch with our common humanity, allow us to channel our emotions, and empower us and others. Do you attend church, synagogue, or another house of worship? Sing with gusto during the hymns! Are you an artist? Share your art, writing, or performances with the world! In addition, art can help dismantle the system of racism and sexism by bringing diverse voices to the table.

As a conductor, I can fight against this system of racism and sexism by choosing anthems with texts or music by female composers/poets or composers/poets of color. As a church musician, I can choose anthems, texts, or hymn translations by women or people of color. In repertoire forums on Facebook, I can choose to suggest pieces by women or people of color even if the original post doesn’t specifically ask for recommendations by women or people of color.

Because much of society is spent destroying and tearing down, a radical act is the act of creation. Even attending concerts or events make us creators, as art needs audiences to spring to life. When you do attend live music events, pay attention to the organization’s programming throughout their season. If there’s a lack of representation of women or people of color, either as performers or creators, speak up!

Leonard Bernstein has a wonderful quote how music may not directly change systems, but it changes the way we think. “The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed...because people are changed by art - enriched, ennobled, encouraged - they then act in a way that may affect the course of the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.”

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