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GUEST BLOG: "Warm the Flame," by Lucy Hudson Stembridge

 WARM THE FLAME by Lucy Hudson Stembridge
 
     "'Do-so' is more important than 'say-so'". 
     "We Are the World"
 
Coincidence?
 
The first quote, which most of us recognize as connecting the knowledge of solfege to the possibility of changing the world, is by Pete Seeger, "a tireless campaigner for his own vision of a utopia marked by peace and togetherness," who died Monday at the age of 94
 
His death doesn't technically coincide with the day of the final note of the recording of "We Are the World", but as do works from madrigals to "Messiah" to MacArthur Park, the crescendos of their creation were over many days. 
 
"We Are the World" is a song and charity single originally recorded by the supergroup USA for Africa in 1985. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We Are the World. With sales in excess of 20 million copies, it is one of the fewer than 30 all-time singles to have sold 10 million (or more) copies worldwide."
 
"Popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary in the 1960s, the song embodied the heart of Seeger: his musicality, his activism, his optimism and his lifelong belief that songs could and should be used to build a sense of community to make the world a better place.
"I'd really rather put songs on people's lips than in their ears," he said.
 
Seeger inspired a generation of folk singers and musicians that included the Kingston Trio and Joan Baez, who once said: "We all owe our careers to Pete Seeger."
 
"Pete is America's tuning fork," author and oral historian Studs Terkel once said. "His songs capture the essence and beauty of this country."
 
What is our role, as choral directors, ministers of music, performers, composers, lyricists?  In some way, are we on the boat with Seeger, with Jackson/Ritchie/Jones/Omartian, and their team, Elise Witt, Maya Angelou, and with 12-year-old pianist-entertainer Ethan Bortnick, who says that he truly believes music can change the world?
 
An advisor once told me, when I was discouraged about an idea, "Keep that flame flickering!" Find a moment during your day when you inspire your own little flame - some extra energy, new creative idea, a moment for an inspiring word to a student, and, as Peter, Paul and Mary so aptly sang, "Don't let the light go out!"
 
Who might be the Pete Seeger in our rehearsal rooms?  What are we doing to encourage her?
 
Listen.  What does it mean to listen?  Does it mean to
     I grew up at his feet, thinking how tall he was!
     Now that I'm grown up I see he is even taller.
    - Nora Guthrie
 
I asked my student - the only one who made it to my house on this snow today {she lives next door} - what she thinks Nora meant by the above quote. "She means that he is taller in faith and music than anything else," answered Willow (a 10-year-old music student).
 
They understand.  So I'd guess we had better know what we're saying.  And where we are leading our world.
 
on January 29, 2014 2:38pm
I love this post!  
on January 29, 2014 3:50pm
What song is the paragraph ending in "he said" referring to? "If I had a hammer"?
 
Pete's death leaves such a big hole in our world. It's hard to imagine who could take his place, and I will miss him. And am so glad we have many recordings of his transcendent performances and his magical ability to get audiences to Sing Out!