Asserting our humanity through music

Cecilia Roudabush, Director of Education

Connecting the people of our world through music

Musical diversity is a part of your daily life, even when you’re not expecting it. Today’s music varies in the short musical segues between shows on your radio, the music in the elevator or on hold. How about that podcast theme song or the celebration and festivals in your town? Hopefully, like me, you celebrate the old and welcome the new. How lucky we are today to connect to anyone from anywhere at any time through music!

What was your first musical experience after the world shut down for COVID? Mine was as a music teacher who loved YouTube! I found my first experience in March 2020 through a video of the people making music on their balconies in Italy. Amazingly, these people gathered nightly with whatever they had in their homes and made music together. Wonderfully, their voices echoed across the streets below and they joined their humanity together through music. What power music has to enrich our lives!

Finding comfort and healing through music at home and around the world

Vedran Smailović performs in Sarajevo’s partially destroyed National Library in 1992. Created: 1 January 1992 by Mikhail Evstafiev.

Last weekend I was going through a box of those things you’re going to use someday, and found an article I’d pulled from Reader’s Digest in 2013. In accord with our month’s theme, it was about a man, cellist Vedran Smailovic, that inspired a musical diversity connection from Sarajevo to England and beyond.

On May 27, 1992 during the Sarajevo Civil War, a particularly brutal attack occurred that killed 22 people at 4 pm in the afternoon. Sadly, they were simply waiting in line for flour near a local bakery. Smailovic, a cellist in the Sarajevo opera, spent the next 22 days, at 4 pm, in full concert attire playing for his townspeople. With great courage, Smailiovic played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor to an empty chair near the bakery despite the fact that the shellings continued.

From Sarajevo to England to Yo Yo Ma

In 1992, Englishman David Wilde composed The Cellist of Sarajevo, Op. 12 for unaccompanied cello. Wilde hoped to honor the feelings created by his own understanding of Smailovic’s act of bravery and in solidarity with his cause. Someone who heard and understood the importance of the piece was none other than cellist, Yo Yo Ma.

Extending the chain of international musical connection, on a stage bare except for a single chair across from him, sat Ma. It was 1994 as he played Wilde’s piece at the International Cello Festival in Manchester, England. A story is told that in the poignant silence that followed Ma’s last note, he reached out and gestured an audience member forward. Ma met Smailovic in the aisle with the audience on their feet and everyone weeping. How lucky those audience members were to be exposed to the musical diversity of our world. How lucky was I that Reader’s Digest shared that richness with me!

New Harmony Line is making music across the world

Speaking of international music experiences, we are happy to be hosting our Beta pilot teacher Odysseas Sagredos from Athens, Greece as our Office Hours guest next Tuesday, November 1st at 7:30 pm ET. During his pre-recorded interview, he talked with such passion about what his students were doing with Hyperscore. When he shared their work to post on Hyperscore’s YouTube, I realized with glee that one of their songs was a remix of “The Final Countdown” by Swedish rock band, Europe. Everywhere, every day, we are all connected through music!!

Empower kids to tell their stories through music.