Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Know any teachers? or Students? of course you do! (I hope!)

Hi everyone. Sorry for the delay of several days now since my last posting but I have had several performances in the interim - as singer, pianist, and/or conductor - in different venues. I really appreciate all of you who have taken the time to share your comments on my first posting, and am especially grateful for your enthusiastic encouragement for our mission!

Speaking of that "mission", I will be writing from Geneva (Switzerland) next week! I will be there February 22-28 for a variety of meetings with individuals, organisations, NGOs, UN-related offices, and potential funders for our projects. I have also been asked to speak at an international conference there, about the creation of online communities and cybervolunteering as a way to improve cross-cultural sharing and human rights issues. Since Listen for Life, the global non-profit that I founded, has projects or affiliates in 45 countries worldwide, we are endeavoring to set a real model for cybervolunteering (as well as on-the-ground teams in each location, of course).

I mention this trip to Geneva in particular, today, because I want to tell you about one of the organisations there that we are working with. They are called GenevaWorld and they have a beautiful website (well, in my opinion anyway) in both French and English at www.genevaworld.com ...There you can find a separate section about their "191" project - a group of 191 art works created by children around the world, expressing their own cultural views to the world and to each other - with the intention of touring this exhibit worldwide and letting the youth inspire the adults towards a desire for unity.

Listen for Life has now committed to organising some music from all of these same cultures/countries to be performed at each exhibit location worldwide, including some representative youth performers on each concert. And we have received one generous offer of a host venue for this touring "191" exhibit (and concert) in the USA, for which the GenevaWorld directors are very grateful - and they will be even more excited, I know, if more significant host venues are forthcoming so that people across North America can be made aware of the project.

But that is not the main purpose of my writing this post today. Jean Cordey, the GenevaWorld founder, is a wonderful visionary, constantly seeking ways to let children and youth be the inspiration and driving force for peace and cross-cultural understanding. He is launching a new project and touring exhibition this year, similar to "191" but with a different focus and theme - that of "Children's Views of Child Labour".
To quote him directly:
"We are looking for children (maximum 16 yrs) from all over the world, who are or have been child workers - as well as children who have never been exploited in this way, {but will hopefully have learned about the issue in school from their teachers} - to express their feelings, and share their suffering and/or hope, through their artworks".

There is more specific information about the Child Labour project on the GenevaWorld website, of course, but the important thing to note is that the deadline for receiving the artwork in Geneva is March 31, 2009. That is only 6 weeks from today. Jean tells me that they have activated their own network of correspondents, schools, and teachers throughout the world and they have already received many many drawings....but they can only choose one or two from each country that are submitted, because ideally they want to have representation from each country and culture of the globe in the final exhibits. However, they do not have many contacts in North America and they would ideally like to have 100-150 drawings from this region to choose from, so Jean asked me to get the invitation out to as many teachers/students as I can, as quickly as I can! (there are also some other specific regions where he has fewer contacts, so if you are reading this blog from a location that you suspect may not be included in his current submissions, by all means contact him - or me).....

There were some inspiring discussions that arose from my last posting, about music teachers and the pivotal role they can sometimes (even unknowingly) play in the lives of individuals. In matters of sociology, citizenship, or cultural understanding, parents and teachers (whether in a classroom or home-school environment) again play a pivotal role in creating opportunities for discussions that raise awareness of critical issues around the globe. Both the youth and adults in North America can sometimes run the risk of being isolated from news about human rights or cultural issues that, at first glance, may not seem to affect their lives directly - but once the students learn that their peers in other countries do experience a direct impact from these injustices, then the students in general tend to respond very strongly and with a very empathetic desire to DO something. If we , around the world, can use art and music to harness that instinctive and generous response to action, then Jean Cordey believes that global change on these issues can occur - and more quickly than any governmental bodies would be able to inspire. Don't you agree?

SO- if you know any children up to age 16, or know any teachers (of any subject) with access to students up to age 16, please encourage them to discuss the issue of child labour- its existence, its causes, its impact on the lives of these youth - and to check out the GenevaWorld website for more information on the type of art works being requested, as well as the address and instructions for mailing them.
And once all of the artworks have been submitted in March, and 1-2 have been selected from each country, culture, and age group for the exhibit locations in Geneva and elsewhere, then you are also invited to tell me/us of gifted young musicians whom you might know from each culture, as we begin to plan the cross-cultural music performances that will accompany these powerfully emotive artworks, wherever possible.

Have any of you been directly impacted by child labour issues or experiences, and in what country/culture? I know that we are certainly not immune to these challenges in North America, even if it is less prevalent, obvious, or accepted.

There is an increasing use of music or art as "therapy" to encourage and help people of all ages to express their subconscious feelings about an experience or situation. All art forms can provide a powerful outlet for non-verbal communication, without any need for special skills or years of training in order to benefit from the activity. Some of us probably respond more to music, and others to visual art, while others are helped more by dance and physical movement. General wisdom holds that music is a more "universal" language for use in therapy of this sort, but I am sure each of the art forms will have its supporters. Any thoughts or experiences you would like to share or discuss?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pomoja : Music in Action

Greetings! The word pomoja means "unity" or "together" in various African languages. I hope to create an online community that can be a pomoja (unity) amongst those of us- individuals, groups, and organisations, alike- who are working to make a difference in the world, while harnessing the power and unifying force of cross-cultural MUSIC to help achieve our goals.

Some of us may be educators, volunteers, or founders of NGOs; advocates for specific causes, diplomats, hospital care providers, or piano teachers; media producers, music composers or performers; staff members at non-profits or CEOs of new hybrid social ventures; donors, investors, and cultural travel enthusiasts....or simply avid music lovers!

I know that there are numerous websites or blogs that endeavor to provide information and inspiration to specific target groups, gather volunteers for a particular cause, or assist NGOs and foundations that are focused on a unique set of issues. And similarly, there are (almost literally!) innumerable websites featuring music of one type or another.

Nevertheless, musicians of all countries and all ages are looking for more opportunities where our hard-won skills can be used to help change people's lives; to know where we can volunteer time and talents to organisations that believe in the power and value of what we have to offer.

And those of us who are not musicians, but are looking for some uniquely potent ways to reach the hearts and minds of the individuals or groups whom we are trying to help, might be surprised to learn about the ways that music is currently being used as a critical tool in such important activities as conflict resolution, international relations, education (for all subjects and at all levels), cross-cultural diversity training, human rights issues and the UN Millennium Development Goals, gang prevention, music therapy for healing of refugees' traumas......to name just a few examples!

The goal of this blog, therefore, is to create a worldwide online community that can share experiences, contacts, ideas, resources, and inspiration which we can in turn share with the world. I hope that this site can become a catalyst that will bring many different organisations, websites, and individuals together around the common interests of music and service:

"Music in Action"!

I look forward very much to hearing from all those whom I've already met during my global travels in this exciting work (some might call it a "mission"), but I am also eager to "meet" new friends from all cultures and continents who will hopefully contribute your comments to this blog so that we can share in your ideas, experiences, vision, contacts and life stories.

We are unified in the belief that we can achieve community and global change most effortlessly and powerfully through music, but we can only do it "together": Pomoja!