Capital Univ. Chapel Choir at Peace

The Capital University Chapel Choir kicked off its 2016 Concert Tour with a stirring performance at my church, Peace Lutheran Church in Gahanna, OH on Feb. 25, 2016. I was delighted to hear Leif Nilsen and his fellow choir member sing here before they appear in NYC’s Carnegie Hall on Feb. 29th!

I have posted my photos from the concert on Facebook. Here are the video clips I managed to take with my little handheld Sony point-and-shoot camera and post on YouTube. I’m pleasantly surprised that my camera managed to capture some of the Choir’s magnificent sound. I hope these clips give you a sense of the majestic performance the capacity audience enjoyed.


My Other Voice

Having grown up in NYC, I became accustomed to seeing great theater performances. Last night, I had the rare pleasure of seeing a Broadway show in formation, with the extra benefit of knowing something about the back story.

In his 7/29/2012 sermon at my church last Sunday, Pastor Kai Nilsen introduced a young man from our community who had been coming to our church. Alex Kip was a 2006 Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate who went on to my alma mater, the University of Michigan, to study Musical Theater. In his senior year, about to go to Broadway to pursue his craft, Alex came down with cancer that not only affected his singing voice, but gave him only a 15-30% chance of living. Alex fought and made it through, returned to Broadway, and, with the encouragement and help of a director, Ari Laura Kreith, started writing a play based on his story. After three table readings in NYC, he brought the play back to his high school and worked with Actors Equity and high school performers for a week to stage its first performance.

What a thrilling performance it was! The story was compelling. The glimpses we get of the great richness and power of Alex’s singing voice help us understand the crushing blow he must have felt in hearing that he may lose his singing voice forever ‒ a message that hit him as badly as the one that he may die. The reality of family life is presented with the poignancy of supportive love. Even knowing the outcome, I doubt there was a dry eye in the house.

This is a work in progress, with script changes being made daily. So as explained prior to the performance, the cast performed with scripts in hand. It wasn’t at all distracting, but a reminder to the audience that we were having a hand at forming this work. Our part became more active in the “talk back session” after the performance in which the audience provided comments and suggestions. What an unusual opportunity it was to see and hear how a play is created! The director explained that even the audience reaction during the performance offered them suggestions on adjusting the play.

NBC4 News in Columbus covered the show. Here’s the clip from their news broadcast last night:

See more about Alex and the production at his website:

Why Study the Arts?

We must ensure that fine and performing arts are an integral part of everyone’s education. That’s the proposition advanced by two national commissions on the Arts in Education on which I’ve served – one sponsored by the Education Commission of the States, and the other, by the College Board.

In this era of severe “reductionism” – of taking everything down to its presumed basics and single-mindedly focusing on the most important of these – education in the arts has suffered. Yet there is so little that many non-arts educators and education policy makers really understand about the importance of arts education.

Art education is about far more than learning to draw or play a musical instrument. Numerous research studies have found that kids who are engaged in arts courses do better in their other courses – including the “all important” mathematics and English language arts – than those who are not. But more, arts education develops abilities that aren’t addressed in the “core” academic subjects. An 11-minute video prepared by the Arts Education Partnership for its 10th Anniversary in 2005 offers some observations by knowledgeable educators and policy makers on this importance (I’m honored to appear a few times):

So why study the arts? Continuing on the hierarchy of learning lists that I started in Why Study Algebra? and Why Study History?, education in the performing arts develops students’ abilities in coordination, teamwork and harmony, and interpretation. The fine arts develop abilities in depiction, dealing with differences, creativity, and emotion. Or, as a professor at the Columbus College of Art and Design once suggested to me, the arts teach us about our soul. And for those who no longer pursue the experiential education of creating art, we can certainly benefit from the personal enrichment and enjoyment of appreciating it.

These are vitally important abilities and understandings in this 21st century. Of course, some may be developed through other educational means. But they probably cannot be developed so readily in students so early in their studies through other disciplines.

A demonstration of these propositions is presented in the achievements of TED Prize winner Jose Antonio Abreu, founder of “El Sistema,” a youth orchestra education system that has transformed hundreds of thousands of kids’ lives in Venezuela. Just watch and listen for a few moments and you’ll be inspired by the virtuosity of poor and middle class kids there in this arts program, in a recent TED broadcast:

As Sr. Abreu states in his TED Prize address: “In its essence, the orchestra and choir are much more than artistic structures; they are examples of schools and of social life, because to sing and to play together means to intimately coexist toward perfection and excellence, following a strict discipline of organization and coordination in order to seek the harmonic interdependence of voices and instruments. That’s how they build a spirit of solidarity and fraternity among them, develop their self-esteem, and foster ethical and aesthetical values related to the music in all its sense. This is why music is immensely important in the awakening of sensibility, the forging of values, and in the training of youngsters to teach other kids.” His further observations on the effect of his “El Sistema” music education program “in the personal/social circle, in the family circle, and in the community” are well worth contemplating as we seek to reform education in our own country.

Learning to come together with our differences: Isn’t that an educational objective we should insist that everyone achieves? Let’s be sure to start with all our kids – and also to remediate ourselves.