Honestly, I was quite shocked when I first heard the story from this week's episode. I know that I didn't provide you with more details, like the name of the choir, what state, what happened next, because in this case they aren't as important as the overall message. What IS important is that we protect our place of refuge. Thinking back on my own days in high school choir, the choir room was my second home. It was a place where I and many others found deep solace. To learn that that space was violated by an adult who didn't understand its importance really threw me for a loop.
A part of the aforementioned outreach choir's mission this season was to help break gender stereotypes. Too often in schools, students face intense bullying and harassment. A study from the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that over 1 in 4 students in grades 6-12 experience bullying at their school.
Given that information, it wouldn't surprise me if many of those students turn to their elective courses to find their safe haven. I came across a recent collaborative study by choral composer Paul Caldwell and PhD student Joshua Palkki finding that 65% of LGBTQ students describe the choir room (the physical space) as a place where they feel safe as a student in high school. While this number should ideally be higher, it clearly shows music as a powerful force in fostering a safe place for students to be themselves.
What does all this mean? Why is it important?
The current reality is that our population is diversifying by the minute. Too often we fixate on such differences when instead we truly must embrace and celebrate them. What if we used our art to build bridges to these diverse communities? Music is a universal language, one that stirs souls and evokes visceral emotional responses. Moving forward, I encourage all who set foot inside the choral sanctuary to allow that healing balm to do its work. When singing together, we unite in harmony and our differences disappear. This is the power of music.
Thanks for listening to this week's episode of #SingToInspire! If you have an inspiring story or choral performance, tweet at @tesfawon using the hashtag #SingToInspire. We absolutely LOVE hearing from our listeners! Please join us again for next week's episode of #SingToInspire.
#SingToInspire Performance of the Week
I Hide Myself (Three Flower Songs) composed by Eric Whitacre
Polyphony conducted by Stephen Layton
#SingToInspire Picture of the Week
200-voice transgender choir featured on GLEE
Rehearsal excerpt from One Voice Mixed Chorus