Monday, October 1, 2012

Global Citizens

             Although I’ve always believed that music has the ability to transcend racial and cultural divides, it is sometimes easy to forget how exactly this can be done.  We get so caught up in perfecting our craft that we can easily let the most important aspects fall away from our list of immediate priorities.  The idea that music must fight to remain relevant in today’s society is something which has been touched upon in our class discussions, and it is always exciting to see some concrete examples in which music (classical or otherwise) is doing its part to make the world a better place.    
             I was reminded that there are many organizations that use music to promote their projects by a festival that took place in New York City’s Central Park on September 29th.  The Global Citizen Festival brought together such renowned artists as Neil Young, the Foo Fighters, and the Black Keys, to an audience of more than 60,000 people all in the name of fighting extreme poverty around the world.  According to the New York Times Article by John Pareles,  “there were video clips, activists and celebrities — among them Katie Couric, Selena Gomez, Olivia Wilde and Katharine McPhee, as well as the economist Jeffrey D. Sachs — detailing poverty-related death tolls and efforts to change them. The concert’s hosts called for actions like sending a poverty-related tweet to the presidential candidates.”  It is inspiring to see how social media and music can work hand in hand to create change for the better.  The concert was internationally webcast, and tickets were made available to people for free if they accepted the following conditions: “enrolling an e-mail address with Global Citizen and then performing certain actions through the Web site, including watching videos, spreading information via social media and doing something for a partner organization.”  Using music to promote one’s ideas is nothing new, but it is inspiring to see it being used on such a large scale with a tangible goal in mind.  However, some might say that this isn’t surprising, particularly as this particular event invited already well-established artists, none of whom happened to be classical musicians.  But the truth of the matter is that classical musicians have also been involved as global citizens.  
For example, Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which he created in collaboration with a Palestinian literary scholar, Edward Said, in 1999, aims to “bring together young musicians from Israel and the Arab countries every summer.  The orchestra seeks to enable a dialogue between the various culture of the Middle East and to promote this through the experience of making music together.”  This project has been a great success in demonstrating that bridges can be built in order to make communication possible and supports the idea that music is capable of transcending cultural gulfs.  Another great example of Classical music taking center stage on the Global scene is El Sistema, a program which began in Venezuela to bring music to poor children.  It has become an international phenomenon, helped in part by the fact that the young, charismatic, and internationally recognized conductor Gustavo Dudamel began his studies with this program.  Today, it reaches more than 300,000 children in Venezuela and is becoming more and more established here in the United States.  Its goal to “transform the lives of children through music,” has succeeded in creating a nurturing and inspiring environment for thousands of under-privileged children in over 25 countries.  
          I believe that it is of the utmost importance to remember that programs like these exist because it reminds us that social change is not only possible, it is part of our reality as musicians.  There are so many opportunities to help existing projects or to create our own, that it is only up to us to ensure that music remains pertinent to our current state of affairs. 

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