Last night Bibi and I went to the Panama National Symphony, the premier concert of a 10 day classical music festival being presented in Panama. We really enjoyed the concert in this beautiful century old National Auditorium which is styled after an Italian opera house and seats about 874 people (see photos and history of this wonderful theatre at http://www.teatronacionaldepanama.com/index.html ). During this wonderful performance I had a combination of reactions. One was a sense of loss that I have been in this city over 2.5 years and this was my first visit to the symphony. After being a 10 year classical piano student in youth and a lifetime of appreciating classical music, how could my life and interests get so consuming that I never checked out these fine arts in Panama? Believe me, I will make up for this.
My other key reaction was once again marveling at how this relatively small orchestra (I counted about 48 members plus the conductor) in this poor, emerging country could have developed such level of talent and cohesiveness. There appeared to be teenagers mixed in with “senior citizen” musicians…putting on an all Beethoven concert…and playing together so beautifully. It made me think of a recent “60 Minutes” piece I saw on TV within the last month on the Venezuelan Youth Symphony. This symphony was built from a program called “the system” in which over 250,000 children, rich poor, black white, from the city and country…work in various youth orchestras from around that poor (and now misled) nation to produce the best talents possible and provide a way out of their misery and poverty. The “end game” is to make it to the National Youth symphony, in Spanish called the “Coro Sinfonico Nacional de Venezuela”, where these children are enabled to travel the world and share the ecstasy of their art and accomplishments. I was very happy today to find a link to this fine CBS program, and suggest that anyone sane will find this story linked above both heartwarming and inspirational. It helps us imagine possibilities of unity and peace in a world that seems bent on destroying itself economically, politically, ecologically and spiritually.
Some of the thoughts that went though my head last night…and on the night I viewed this 60 Minute program…were:
Music is the “universal language” of the soul. Perhaps we just need to get all heads of state, global corporate board members, and religious leaders of the day to attend TOGETHER a concert at least once a month. Then after the concert they should get together and discuss calmly what is REALLY important to bring world peace and an end to hunger and poverty.
If poor and rich kids from an impoverished and under educated country like Venezuela can grow together into such a powerful, cohesive “band” of young people who can excel, the same can happen anywhere in the world. (I read a report online where the director of this Venezuela group is taking this program to the inner city of Los Angeles, CA…great idea). Learning music has been proven to stimulate capacity for learning in children at all other disciplines. Many leaders and innovators in technology and business were former…musicians. Alan Greenspan was a concert pianist. Condolesa Rice is reportedly a gifted classical pianist as well. Bill Clinton…plays the saxophone. :)
Music is more powerful than governments or religions in uniting people for a common cause or goal. Going back to my youth, playing in various bands both classical and popular genres, and attending one summer the famous Interlochen National Music camp
( http://www.interlochen.org/ ) , it was clearly evident to me that capacity for learning and excellence is not based on race, nationality, wealth, religion or political persuasion. It is primarily based on opportunity and encouragement. All our institutions… religious, government and otherwise…should simply focus on providing opportunity and encouragement to their own. This would more successfully in my opinion conquer our wars with terrorism, drugs and crimes. Dealing with the source of our problems versus the symptoms would more quickly eradicate our world of “evil”.
The “fine arts” transcend the passing of time, modern technologies, and commercialism in bringing meaning to ones life. So many Americans have NEVER been to a symphony, recital or opera which calls out to the higher values, disciplines and pursuits of humanity. If we are busy “making music” and trading together, we won’t have time nor reason for fighting with each other. We will recognize that in “God’s universal orchestra”, there is a place for everyone. If we don’t see the value in the drummer and eliminate him, we will lose our rhythm and cohesion. If we don’t like the sound of the oboe and eliminate that instrument…when it comes time for that lead part we will just be listening to “white noise” and lose our melody. If we looked at the world as “God’s universal orchestra”, we would continue rehearsing with each other, competing for excellence, encouraging and teaching those with lesser capability…with the abject goal of bringing everyone UP to our level instead of trying to competitively beat everyone else down.
We all need one another folks. One section of the orchestra performing alone and without recognition of the need for the other parts will quickly sound boring and monotonous. In life, we NEED the differences between us to continue the harmony of God’s universe. If we destroy sections of “God’s orchestra”, we will forever be left wanting and in disarray. The world will be in such dissonance that everyone will just stay home, alone, not learning, and dying a sad death…without “the music”.
Go to a symphony near you soon…and think about this. If your ears and spirit are open, I think you will experience this analogy as well. And by all means, support and invest in symphonies…not bombs.