Revolution for an Evolution part 5 – Initiating Initiative

Initiative like vision cannot be taught directly or by wrote, it’s not something that can be given but something I believe that we all have.  It can be awakened in students by placing them into situations that call for them to be socially literate, so that they start caring about their communities, the issues, the people.  As soon as they get to a school they need to be sent right out again, as soon as it’s possible…….

I was often told during my college years that a musician’s job was to relate to the composer, yet if the composer is trying to relate to the world, by us also relating to the world are we not then relating to the composer?  Music is powerful, yet if it’s only available to serve a few, then really it’s powerless.

A music school could facilitate relationship building by partnering with groups that deal with social issues and needs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Bridges for Youth, Boys and Girls Club, The Red Cross, United Way, The Salvation Army to name a few.  Students could be given assignments to spend time with those groups to create programming.  If they’re all practicing to play for “real”audiences to bring to them the power of music, it doesn’t get more real than with these audiences.  Of course credit towards their degree would be given but I suspect after a student’s initiative is awakened, the work they will do will make them forget about the credit anyway.

This idea was attempted.  A Dallas Opera/Southern Methodist University program gave students the opportunity to work in a professional environment by presenting a children’s Opera highlighting an important social concern.  It was reported on in 2006 and the AP article is still available. From the article:

The performance of “Red Carnations” was one of dozens the graduate students have given this semester at Dallas-area schools through a new partnership between SMU and the Dallas Opera. The program aims to introduce young students to the art form while addressing socially relevant issues.

The English-language “Red Carnations,” for example, focuses on events that unfold after a young man and woman meet at a masquerade ball. The situation speaks to the problem of “stranger danger,” the ever-present reality drilled into students’ heads by schools _ especially in the era of Internet predators, organizers said.

“We saw an opportunity to help teachers prepare students to be aware of their surroundings” and learn how to handle certain situations, said Margery Anderson-Clive, director of education at the Dallas Opera.

Anderson-Clive’s department prepares school teachers before performances by sending them a synopsis of the half-hour show, along with suggested lesson plans based on the opera’s themes.

“If we talk about awareness of ‘stranger danger’ and learning ways to protect yourself _ to engage in conversations safely without divulging personal information or putting your family in jeopardy or at risk _ then this is also a valuable tool, a benefit of appreciating opera,” Anderson-Clive said.

This is the kind of program that has potential and I applaud it, however for the music students, the professional opportunity was still the main focus (from the article):

Abigayl Venman, 23, said her work with the opera house would unquestionably boost her resume. But she noted that performing for young and restless audiences also forced her to modify and polish her craft.

“Hopefully, by performing for children, it will be a learning experience and I can take that away to perform for discerning critics,” Venman said.

I am not meaning to heap criticism on Abigayl because I believe if institutions changed their mission to include a community outreach based curriculum that helped facilitate student initiative to address social problems with their art, she might have realized that what she was doing was vital and about the now for those children, not just about the future for her and the other students involved.

Hypothetically, if at the end of a long illustrious career Abigayl compares the “discerning” critics hailing her as the greatest Aida they had ever heard with reading that a woman recalls that when she was a child that a group of students sang an Opera that stopped her from walking away with a stranger, then which would have been her greater performance, pleasing a critic or saving a life?

I have recently heard of a college that does have a community outreach curriculum, I will investigate!

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