Conference Morsel: Socially Engaged Musicianship
Date: April 2, 2014
(An excerpt from the interest session “Socially Engaged Musicianship in Choral Music Connecting to the World Around Us,” presented by Doreen Rao during the 2014 ACDA Central Division Conference)
The idea of “Socially Engaged Musicianship” can be framed by Leonard Bernstein’s response to the assassination of John F. Kennedy: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
Based on Harvard University research that defines “GoodWork” as that which is deemed both excellent in quality and socially responsible, there is excellent repertoire that exemplifies that thesis. Two examples would Alan Naplan’s Jewish morality song, “Al Shlosha and the U2 MLK remembrance, “In the Need of Love.” Socially engaged musicianship is a way of moving “beyond the traditional objectives of beautiful vocal tone and musical literacy toward singing in choirs as an innately personal way of being in the world.
In contrast to the traditional methods of selecting choral repertoire to illustrate particular concepts of music, or repertoire composed or arranged to teach a particular set of musical skills, the socially engaged conductor looks to artistically and educationally appropriate repertoire as a cultural, historical and social environment in which students learn to explore, affirm and celebrate their relationship with the music, themselves and the world around them.