Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A cappella Activism

In light of recent current events, I would like to change course a little bit and talk more seriously.
We are in some troubled times. I don’t count myself a political person. My daily news comes from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, so I can hardly say that I’m more well-informed than most. But there are things I believe in: I believe a cappella music is the coolest music ever. I believe in the power of education and that teaching is the most important profession that exists today. I believe that everyone should be treated equally, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, background, beliefs, etc. I believe that when a terrible shooting occurs, especially if that shooting occurs in a school, I believe our first, and most important duty, is to mourn the loss and do what we can to help.
I also believe that we, as a cappella singers and musicians, have a great deal more power than we give ourselves credit for. I believe that music has the power to shape our cultural identities. I believe that music, and all the arts, visual, literary, and performing arts, can raise awareness more powerfully than news networks can. I also believe that we are not using our powers enough.
I will not be so bold as to claim that singing in an a cappella group could possibly stop a horrific incident like this, or the hundreds that occurred right before it. But after a major event like this one, dozens, even hundreds of a cappella groups spring up to raise spirits, and a little money, for the cause. I wish the charity, love, and support brought on by a cappella groups happened more often, and before the horrific event ever happened.
Isn’t it possible, just possible, that the arts could have played a small part in preventing acts like this? Is it possible that a healthy arts program could have raised the shooter’s self esteem to the point where he might not have needed to go this far? Is it possible that music could have raised awareness about whatever the issue was that drove him to do this? Is it possible that with the support of peers, engaged in something meaningful, he might never have done this?
Is it just possible that this could have been prevented? Is it just possible that one of these events could have been prevented if the arts played a bigger role in our lives?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. You might think that the answer is a resounding “No, and you’re crazy for thinking this way.” That’s fine. I’d like to believe that the answer is a resounding “Yes, there’s even a small possibility we could have stopped this.”
I can only speak for myself, but my music classroom has always been a place where students can escape their social burdens, peer pressure, and school stigmas, and bond together with others who share their love of something musical. I became a confidant, a mentor. And I did it while teaching a a cappella.
I don’t want to use this time to defend the arts. Anyone who is reading this right now knows the arts are in trouble, and if you don’t know that, you need to know.
I also don’t know any circumstances regarding this incident, or anyone involved. It could have been unrelated to anything I have just mentioned. But, even if this incident could not have been prevented, what about the countless others?
The point I’m trying to make is this…A cappella music is currently the “hot ticket” in musical culture. It gives people the chance to be the rock star of their dreams, to spend time in a classroom learning and singing the music they like, rather than the music that is forced upon them by curriculums. We, as a cappella singers, arrangers, producers, and especially educators, have an enormous power within us to spread good, promote creativity, encourage teamwork, raise awareness, build self-esteem, reinforce motor skills, enhance imagination, awaken healthy modes of expression, etc. We have that power, from the most advanced a cappella group on the planet to a group that just had their first rehearsal yesterday. And when tragedy after tragedy hits the news, the first thought in my head is “Could we, as musicians, have stopped it?”
Just give it a thought.
Marc Silverberg

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