Jean D. Lachowicz
It seems like everywhere I go and everything I do, I find more compelling evidence to support the mission and purposes of the Spirit of Harmony Foundation: Providing opportunities for personal development and self-expression through the support of music and music education.
Not surprisingly, concerts are often the most inspirational, not only for the beauty of the performance, but also for the program booklet passed out each time we go to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I’ve always considered the book a good read, but now that I am involved with the Foundation I devour it cover to cover! The February edition presents a wealth of insights on the moral imperative of music education and the importance of music in the life of every one of us.
In an article about Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, Ma talks about the project’s role as a melting pot for global music. He says, “I’m trying to be more like a traditional musician in that I’m happy to play anytime. Give me a big hall or a hallway or a patch of green someplace—your house, your kitchen. I don’t perform. I just share.”
His profound love of music reminds me of something I personally witnessed several years ago when Yo-Yo Ma was featured as a soloist in the first half of a concert. At the end of his piece, he took the expected bows and ovations, and the audience was obviously pleased to have seen him perform. To our great surprise, however, after the intermission, as everyone was settling in for the second symphony of the evening, we noticed Ma tucked away in the cello section, playing his little heart out as part of the ensemble.
I’ve never before seen a guest soloist joining the ensemble, with a big smile on his face, simply because he wasn’t quite ready to stop playing music yet that evening! He just plopped himself into the cello section, and I still fondly recall the blushing look on the faces of the cello players on either side of him, sharing a music stand with THE Yo-Yo Ma for this impromptu experience!
Paging deeper into the program book, in the “Meet the Musicians” articles, I love violinist Paul Phillips’ response when asked “Why did you choose your instrument?” He says, “My dad pulled an old violin out of the closet when I was four years old and asked me if I would like to play. Thankfully, I said yes!” Thankfully indeed.
The CSO’s music director and conductor Riccardo Muti always expresses himself passionately and eloquently when talking about the impact of music on our lives and the world. In an article about Maestro Muti being awarded an honorary degree by Northwestern University and giving their commencement address, Muti says that music remains a method of communication that transcends boundaries, and is “one of the few things that can bring this terrible world together.”
Muti also discusses the Paths of Friendship project of the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra (he founded in Italy in 2004) that travels to troubled areas of the world, using music to promote hope and unity. “I know that music has the ability to bring people together,” he says. “People who don’t speak the same language and otherwise would not understand each other in terms of culture, ethnicity, and religion. Each of you, no matter what your expertise, has the same ability to bring people together.”
As one would expect, I especially perk up when I find articles specifically about young people playing and learning music, (and I must shamelessly admit) the CSO’s donors and philanthropic programs. Alas, those are blog posts for another day.
The point today is: Music is so good for kids, and so tremendously important to all of us, that we cannot allow exposure to music to be determined by mundane factors like where someone lives or how much money their family has. Our society and our culture, and our future, depends on “Providing opportunities for personal development and self-expression through the support of music and music education.”
It is our life’s work to make sure we recognize, promote, and celebrate Music All Around Us.
Jean D. Lachowicz is Executive Director of the Spirit of Harmony Foundation. For the past 30 years, she headed nonprofits specializing in youth development, social justice, and human services. She lives in Chicago, IL.