Unity: Building Community through Choral Music
Our Unity concert was created with the hope that by intertwining carefully chosen music, community partners from diverse backgrounds, and the youthful energy of 6th-8th grade who wanted to make a change that Sabish Middle School could build meaningful bridges between groups with very disparate ideas of race, sexuality, and police-community relations. The program began with a pre-performance gathering where community groups who advocated for LGBTQ+ issues, race-equality, police-community relations, music’s role in community-building, and the acceptance of all peoples facilitated a conversation with audience members on the issues facing our Fond du Lac community and different ways that they (as community members) could address those issues. Recognizing that some of the audience might be uncomfortable interacting with some of these marginalized groups, members of the audience were incentivized to visit each community partner, engage in community-orientated dialogue, and get a signature from one of the representatives from each group. Once someone has gathered signatures from all the community partner groups, they would be entered to win grocery gift cards. Approximately 53% of our students are classified as economically disadvantaged, so the use of grocery cards as prizes was meant to alleviate any kind of hunger or stress those families might have over putting food on the table. As audience members entered the auditorium, they then were asked to quickly answer the questions “what does unity mean to you?” These answers were monitored by our 8th grade National Honor Society students and were then projected up behind the choir throughout the concert. This gave our audience the chance to have an active role in the performance, celebrated the diversity of ideas that we had gathered in performance hall, and create a sense of unity amongst the strangers gathered to hear their middle school singers perform. Shortly thereafter, the performance part of the evening began. The music was deliberately chosen to celebrate the diverse places and people that choral music comes from. The music performed originated from countries such as Israel, Australia, and the United States and included both women’s’ and People of Color’s compositional voices. In between pieces, students would read short expositions of what the next song was, what it meant to them, and how they believed that this song fostered a sense of community.
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