Something that I especially love about music is its ability to bring people together, no matter who they are or where they come from. Music is an extremely collaborative art form, and anyone who has been a part of an ensemble can attest to this fact.
At the beginning of this year, a close friend and I, as well as our amazing performing arts teacher, Ms. Shapiro, decided to start a barbershop chorus for women at our school. I have always loved barbershop music, and both my friend and I decided that our school needed a place where girls could come together and engage with this style of music. With our teacher’s guidance, we started the club, naming it the Milken Honeys. The group, conducted by Ms. Shapiro, an experienced and passionate barbershop singer herself, has nine girls, students ranging from the ages of 13 to 17, as well as a couple of wonderful female faculty. Together, we have worked hard to develop and refine an interesting, fun repertoire of music that has allowed each of us to grow as individuals and musicians.
Through collaboration, we have found our sound; we have united in our love of barbershop music and the connection we share with one another has enriched each of our individual experiences. For me, the Milken Honeys has become so much more than a project or club; the group is my second family. Our passion for and interest in barbershop music has driven us to strive for success as an ensemble, and while this is important, it is our appreciation of one another and what we create together that has truly taken us to new heights.
This past weekend, our group had the opportunity to compete at the WorldStrides Heritage Festival in Anaheim, California. Besides performing at school concerts and at a barbershop workshop and showcase, this was our group’s first experience performing for people we did not know and competing against other ensembles. Before going on stage to perform, we rehearsed our set, focusing on our sound and working together to address any areas in need of work. Watching my peers collaborate with one another and support each other in this way made me immensely proud; I was overjoyed that something I had felt so passionate about creating had become something so much deeper for all of us. Through creating music as a group, we learned to watch out for one another. After performing our harmonious set of music with exciting choreographed movements, we felt so proud and were fortunate enough to receive the festival’s gold award.
At the festival, it was not only our own group’s collaborative spirit that I witnessed. I also saw that music united people from completely different backgrounds. On Shabbat, the day after we competed, our group decided to walk 3.7 miles to go and support other choral ensembles. When we arrived at the auditorium, we watched several choirs from a Christian school in Idaho perform beautiful religious music. As I cheered the groups on, I realized how wonderful an opportunity this festival was, and I was so grateful to be there representing my school. I, a Jewish girl from a big city, was given the chance to interact with Christian students from a small town, people I would have never thought I would be able to connect to on such a deep level. These interactions would not have happened without the common thread of our shared love of music.
I noticed that one of the ensembles that we watched was named “Una Voce,” which is Latin for “one voice.” My school’s concert choir is called “Kol Echad,” which is Hebrew for the same phrase. We may come from very different worlds, but music unites us all and reminds us that even those with whom we may think we have nothing in common are affected by music, just as we are. Although they sang in Latin and we sang in Hebrew, both of our groups came to this festival because we appreciate music, and this shared experience brought us to understand, support and celebrate one another.
For many people, music may not be a pivotal force in their life. Our society has become one of passive listeners, one where music takes a backseat to everything else that happens. The radio hums under our conversations in our cars, our music buzzes in our headphones as we run on the treadmill, milliseconds of the jazz band’s songs seep through the door of the music room down the hall. I have learned that music is really meant to be an active art form; its true magic is unleashed only when people are willing to embrace it and share it with others. If we can do this, we will be able not only to find peace with ourselves, but also to develop meaningful relationships with people that are different from us. If we can learn to listen actively, not only to music but to each other and the music of other people’s life stories, we will grow exponentially as individuals and citizens. At the end of the day, we are all humans striving to leave a mark on this world, and with collaboration, we can use this similarity to become a “kol echad” or “una voce.”