What’s Going On?
The choir students of Miami Union Academy (MUA), desired to have a conversation about the world’s social issues and to initiate that conversation using the gift of music. Using themes from Marvin Gaye’s iconic album “What’s Going On,” the concert allowed students to speak on things that they face in their communities and bring light to things that are happening around the world.
The purpose of this community event was to unite and bring together people from very diverse cultures and backgrounds. We recognize music to be a powerful tool and we understand it has a power that transcends all language and cultural barriers. The high school choir of MUA was able to perform works by well known composers and also works that were newly commissioned just for this event.
These works were:
- What’s Happening Brother by Marvin Gaye arr. by Roberto Burton
- Star Spangled Banner arr. by Richard L. Saucedo
- I Want Jesus to Walk with Me arr. by David von Kampen
- Glory by John Legend and Common, strings and choral vocal parts arr. by Sarah Ruff
- A World by Jeremy Sovoy Jordan
- Together We Can by Phillip Salisbury
- I Will Lift My Voice and Sing by Victor C. Johnson
- God Is A God arr. by Wendell Whalum
- Da Pacem, Domine by John Purifoy
- Come Sunday by Duke Ellington, string arr. by Roberto Burton
- Let There Be Peace On Earth arr. by Jay Althouse
All works performed had a message of peace and called the audiences to rise up and speak out against injustices they see. Our hope was to give peace to the motherless child, to encourage the despondent soul, and to bring hope to all who feel like their voices aren’t heard. We challenged each other as well as the audience to be the change that we want to see. The change needed in our communities starts with us and its something that we recognize and understand.
Located in the urban area of North Miami, MUA is a historically black private institution that has been around for 102 years now. Most of our students represent that demographic. However, for this concert we were intentional with branching outside of our normal base and reached out across cultural lines to invite people from all over. We felt the message was one that was needed to be heard by all types of people.
Overview of planning and execution process for this project
In order for this event to be successful, certain things had to fall in place. Including:
- Securing of the concert venue
- The commissioning of new works (myself included)
- Rehearsals with the choir including a dress rehearsal with the orchestra the night before (May 17th @ 7pm)
- Printing music for the 30 piece ensemble
- Advertising (sending emails, making phone calls, performances at churches and other events)
- Fundraising for budget
Work began in the month of April for this event.
It’s brought awareness to the students and our community. Our school was already a institution that placed a premium on community service, but I believe this program allowed us to ask ourselves how we can do more and to find out whats needed in our community.
Specific Budget Breakdown
- $4,500 – Musicians (30 pieces orchestra/ensemble)
- $2,500 – Live lights and sound (Waterfall Music Productions)
- $186 – Ticket printing
New or recurring project?New Project
Challenges/obstacles that were encountered
One challenged encountered was securing the 30 musicians needed. I was tasked with contracting each instrumentalist individually. Reaching out to fellow musicians who are friends to give references was a huge help. There were times when a musician would confirm to be present but then had to back out of the performance. However, they would provide the information of someone who could replace them.
Another challenge that presented itself was with the venue. There was a program happening before our program at the same place. It required me to arrive a bit earlier to the venue to start the process of preparing the place for our concert. Because we also had the dress rehearsal there the night before, it required a lot of maneuvering and setting light and sound equipment up and then having to move it.
Other than that there weren’t too many obstacles. Students, parents, teachers and administration bought into the program and the message being shared and worked hard to make sure the program was a success.
Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?
Since the event, there have already been measurable results. The church where the event was held has begun to implement programs to benefit the children who live in the surrounding neighborhood. They implemented a program this summer that allowed any child in the neighborhood to be able to come to the church and eat breakfast for free. It didn’t matter whether they attended the church or not.
Several MUA students decided to dedicate their time during the summer to become counselors for various programs summer camps and I have been in talks with administration to start a food bank at our school where students and their families will be provided with foods that they need with the goal of one day expanding our program to our surrounding community
Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?
First find out what is going on in your community. Reach out to people and find out what their need is. We can’t help others, we can’t make a difference if we keep our distance and neglect to address their needs.