Music and dance continue to drive change

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Nevins co-editor of The Fulcrum and co-founder and chairman of the board of directors of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

Watching the Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday night, I realized that this celebration of lifelong artistic achievement is more than just a show business awards ceremony.

The Kennedy Center represents the cultural diversity of our country, and the language of music and dance presented during the program illustrates how it has often been a catalyst for change.

There is a unique exchange between performers and their audiences and the true great artist elevates the collective consciousness of those present as they step into the future with the performer.

Joan Baez was one of the winners, and as a child of the 60s I remember her music well.

Baez was and still is a voice for the excluded and marginalized. The lyrics to “We Shall Overcome” are as relevant today as they were then, and despite having passed 50 years, I believe that “deep in my heart we will overcome someday”.

Those who spoke last night about Baez’s life and work reflected how counter-cultural his work was in the beginning and how all of a sudden, in the 1960s, they were culture; a culture which lived the pluralistic dreams of our founders and the motto of our nation: E pluribus unum. Among many, we are one.

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Debbie Allen was another winner. His music and dance were deeply rooted in the Harlem Renaissance of his time, and his work also represents the limitless potential that comes with creativity. Growing up in the segregated South, she was raised to be independent and free and considered herself a citizen of the world.

His words reflect in many ways not only his challenges in life, but also the challenges of our nation:

“You have to keep believing in yourself, know your worth and keep working to hone your skills. I’ve been rejected by everyone, but I’m sitting here. So you have to stay in the game, you can’t stand. collapse. I hope these challenges will make you stronger. It did for me. “

And then there was Midori, described by one presenter as a visionary artist, activist and educator who explores and builds connections between music and the human experience, a person who breaks with traditional boundaries to become one of the most successful violinists. most remarkable of our time.

Last night one of the presenters explained how Midori “stirs our souls with his music, but changed our lives with his actions”.

There is a unique understanding of the possibilities of music not just for those who play, but for those who listen. She recently said: “Artists have a unique responsibility through our work and actions, to echo and reflect our society and to respond to its needs.”

Midori understands so well the impossibility of perfection both in his music and in the society in which we live, but also the common path of the two:

“It must be recognized that pure perfection is unattainable. Therefore, the realization that its irrevocable flaws and deficiencies must be confronted guides us to the first stage of learning. We must each accept any situation as it is. ‘she really is, with dignity. “

And she fulfilled this responsibility as an artist. Midori is deeply committed to the pursuit of humanitarian and educational goals. She has founded and manages several non-profit organizations, including Midori & Friends, which provides music programs to young people and communities in New York City, and Music Sharing, a Japan-based foundation that brings in classical Western and Japanese musical traditions. in the lives of young people by presenting programs. in schools, institutions and hospitals. In recognition of these commitments, she serves as the United Nations messenger of peace.

The intersection of democracy and culture strengthened last night. The musician seeks to inspire his audience and the politician his constituency.

“Jazz music is the perfect metaphor for democracy,” says famous trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. “The music in The Democracy! Suite may be instrumental, but it speaks for itself, spurring us to action, to step out of our seats and stand up for the world we believe in.”

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