The April issue of Choral Journal is now available online! The cover article for this issue was written by Joy Hirokawa and titled “Choral Village: An Immersive Experience to Build Cultural Sensitivity and Empathy.” Below is an excerpt of the article, and you can read it in its entirety in the April 2019 issue! Go to acda.org/choraljournal and click “Search Archives.”
Choose April 2019 from the dropdown menu.
We are today witnessing polarization and fracturing of our societal norms unlike anything in recent history. The year 2014 marked heightened public awareness of violence at the hands of police, particularly in our communities of color. Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner all lost their lives, along with many others. How should we, as choral musicians and teachers, respond to this?
What can we do to make a difference in our communities to address the divisiveness and violence we are seeing around us? How might we create in our rehearsals and classrooms “a musically democratic path of learning to live together and of coping more effectively with the complexities and diversities of our contemporary world”?1
As choral musicians, often our first response is to sing with others as a means to manage our grief and express our solidarity. Singing was integral to unifying people during the Civil Rights Movement and the early twentieth-century labor movement, for example. On 9/11, the United States Congress spontaneously broke into song on the steps of the Capitol building, singing “God Bless America.” How might we translate the strong feelings associated with singing in these situations into building empathy and cultural sensitivity that has lasting impact?
Young people in particular may have a chance of carrying this message further and longer. Could choral music teach them empathy and cultural understanding? How would we know if our efforts actually made a difference?
Against this backdrop, I endeavored to identify best practices and assessment that would provide evidence that what we do can make a positive difference in the attitudes of students outside the rehearsal room and performance hall. This research ultimately led to what became Choral Village. The purpose of Choral Village was to intentionally bring together middle school-aged youth from diverse backgrounds to develop cross-cultural understanding and empathy through activities including choral singing, theatrical games, drum circles, shared meals, and guest artist presentations in a weeklong summer program. This article will discuss the rationale, development, and structure of the program before taking a closer look at the resulting research.
1 Marja Heimonen, “Music Education and Global Ethics: Educating Citizens for the World,” Action, Criticism & Theory for Music Education 11, no.1 (2012), 74-75.