To celebrate the 15th anniversary of A! Magazine for the Arts, we asked our readers for quotes, comments, and anecdotes about how the arts have changed their lives or the life of someone they know. Their stories are powerful. Read for yourself...
Three members of the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy (MECCA) recently participated in First Lady Michelle Obama's "Country at the White House." The educational workshop and an evening concert were held in July and featured country music stars Alison Krauss and Brad Paisley. The program emphasized arts education and country music's role in American culture.
Claire Morison of Bristol, Va., a member of the Highlands Youth Ensemble (HYE), and Avery Deakins of Johnson City, a member of the East Tennessee Children's Choir (ETCC), as well as HYE newcomer Isiah Porter of Bristol, Va., were among more than 125 students from Tennessee, Virginia and Pennsylvania invited to participate in the event.
Being in the White House for such an event "was sort of overwhelming, really cool and exciting," says Morison. "I doubt if I would have had an opportunity like this if I wasn't in the choir."
"I was psyched out," Deakins adds. "Words cannot describe what it's like to be inside the White House and not have paid tons of money to go but to be invited. It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. I've gotten so many things because of ETCC. I've had so many experiences I wouldn't have gotten anywhere else."
Though the President and First Lady did not attend the afternoon workshop that the students participated in -- "they probably have got a lot of stuff to do being who they are," Deakins said -- the time spent with Krauss and Paisley was fun and informative.
The two professionals shared their stories of developing their musical careers and performed briefly for the students, who then had a chance to ask questions. Morison said she asked Krauss if she had studied classical violin as well as fiddle (she had), and Deakins asked Paisley, who had talked about the first guitar his grandfather had given him, if Paisley still had that $50 Sears model (he does). Krauss and Paisley also answered questions about songwriting.
Music: The Universal Language of Mankind
In May 2007, the Highlands Youth Ensemble (HYE) traveled to Hungary to participate in an international choral competition. In 2008, HYE invited a choir from Hungary to the U.S.
HYE member Heidi Faust did NOT get to go to Hungary with the ensemble, yet she made a wonderful friend and had a life-changing experience because of the choral partnership.
Heidi says, "One of the girls who stayed at my house (in September 2008) returned to spend the month of July with me this summer. It was an amazing month and we became closer than before -- if that is even possible!"
She continues, "I don't think a day goes by that I don't think about the Hungarians and how incredible it is that I could become so close to a group of people in only a week. I truly believe that the music we shared aided us in becoming a family. 'Music is the universal language of mankind' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is my new favorite quote. I believe it explains this bond that we have with this choir!" Heidi recently wrote a paper for her English class about how she thinks "music is the most amazing thing in the world and the most powerful gift one can have."
"Music Has Influenced My Life"
Brad Arington, a native of Glade Spring, Va., has won numerous piano competitions. He has degrees in classical languages, medicine and law, and currently practices law with technology and healthcare companies in Silicon Valley, Calif. Currently, he studies at the San Francisco Conservatory, performs in the advanced piano performance class at Mission College, and plays in master classes.
Arington says, "I've enjoyed many benefits from studying and performing music that are often touted in support of music programs in schools: better academic performance, discipline, public performance skills, etc. All of these are particularly useful for the vast majority of music students like myself who don't end up in performing careers."
He continues, "However, there have been even greater ways that music has influenced my life. One is the opportunity to actively participate in something larger than myself, to immerse myself in great works of art, to aspire to recreate those works for audiences in a meaningful and personal way. The other is that no matter where I've lived, being a musician has meant that I've always easily found a community to belong to. Whether it's been the professional musicians I've known in New York City or the pianists and enthusiastic fans that I've met in recent years on the amateur piano competition circuit, there is an instant and lasting bond."