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choral

Choral Music Education is Making

the World Smaller

Thomas Ajack, WMEA State Chair, Choir

They say that the world is get t ing smaller because of technology. I dis- agree. As technol- ogy proliferates, I think people have grown further apart from each other. They text instead of

talk. They “tweet” instead of write. They “Facebook” instead of socialize. They play Guitar Hero instead of making music with their friends. I recently heard a graduation speech, which challenged the audience to “turn it off and experience the humanity around you.” Making music in a choir that embraces world music is a great way to draw us closer together as people.

There is an African philosophy called “Ubuntu.” It means “that a person is a person through other people.” You define yourself by your interaction with others. We recently shared a concert with an audience called “Ubuntu!” Each choir did world music and songs about the in- teraction of people. It hung together with South African freedom songs being sung by the choirs as they exchanged places on stage. There was no dead time that night. It all wrapped up with the choirs singing Paul Halley’s “Freedom Trilogy” which incorporates some of those freedom songs with a contemporary sound, “Amazing Grace,” and chant as a descant. We left the auditorium singing Ben Allaway’s “From This House.” The lyrics from that song

go “From this house, we will go hand in

“Making music in a choir that embraces world music is a great way to draw us closer together as people.”

hand [to do good in the world with each

other].” I had one student say that it was the most uplifting and deeply profound experience she had. Can you think of a better place to define yourself through others than in a choir?

I have noticed that “world music” songs from other cultures often focus on the human connectedness of people. In the drum circles of the Native American, a gamelan, work songs of the slaves, town kitchen parties in Nova Scotia, or African “freedom songs,” a main common factor exists – people. As technology moves us away from each other, and makes each one more isolated and insulated from a truly human experience, it is imperative that we show our students and choir members this important part of what it really means to be human. We must make time in our school schedules, lesson planning and program- ming of literature, and lives to regularly and intentionally provide an opportunity to keep us human.

World music provides many teachable moments and opportunities because of its richness. In fact, our state standards in music address the use of world music:

I: History and Culture Content Standard

Students in Wisconsin will relate music to history and culture.

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