From Immersion to Advocacy

Posted 17 July 2018 12:00 AM by Andrew Mattfield

How I got into music is probably the most frequent question asked of me. And the answer, to be honest, is really simple. It just kind of happened. When I was younger I fit neatly into the “music/ theatre nerd” niche, and I was happy about that. I played in the band, I sang in the choir, I acted with the drama club in school. I did festivals, competitions, practiced 3 hours a day, and somehow managed to have a somewhat decent social life. When I grew up, the question changed to “what about your music continues to inspire you?” And this question gets a little more complicated.

The answer is research. I have found that to be a well-informed performer, musician, and educator, one must do their research. Natural ability and charisma are important yes, but in my experiences your biggest asset is your ability to find solutions to problems and questions through the resources available to you. As an educator, my research has centered on music and art as a means to an end for social justice, inclusion, resistance, and the preservations of society and culture. These topics, though broad, reveal a great deal about how integral a part the arts play in our lives whether we realize it or not. Think about it. Have you ever had a lyric, melody, or riff stuck in your head without knowing how it got there? Have you ever been inspired by something you saw, or moved to tears by a performance? Have you ever created something yourself which provokes these responses in others? What I’m interested in is why. Why are we as members of societies moved to create? Why are we moved to express the human sprit through things tangible and intangible? What are the impacts of these creations on our surroundings, and will they last as examples of what we want to represent to future generations?

I have posed these questions to our City Spotlights teen leaders through a lens of historical context and the current social and political climate. Their responses have showed me a depth of thought and consideration well beyond their years, and an appreciation for the arts as a catalyst for social change that inspires me and gives me hope for the future. The topic they chose to explore this year is “love” and it’s many facets. How do we as individuals express love? How does society express love? How does that love affect the way we interpret and interact with out neighbors? In such turbulent times as these, I am inspired by their desire to focus on a positive exploration of artistic expression. The songs, dances, and vignettes they have created show the healing and transformative power of love, and that is something out world desperately needs right now. It is through this total immersion and advocacy for these topics and most importantly doing research, that the teens will immerge from this creative experience with a deeper understanding of what connects us more than separates us. And the best part? They are becoming better friends, neighbors, and members of society in the process.

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