Conversations that #OfferPeace

S1 E2 | FULL EPISODE

Building Peace Through Music

Midori Goto, Wynton Marsalis and Joyce DiDonato discuss what music can teach us about peaceful communication. Hosted by MSNBC Correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Trymaine Lee.

AIRED: June 28, 2021 | 0:49:56
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

Hi, my name is Rhiannon Giddens,

and I'd like to thank The Peace Studio for having me.

Even in this sort of pre-recorded way,

glad to be a part of this, because I believe that

music is really one of the ultimate tools for peace,

that in music is where the best of

what it means to be human comes together,

that, as I've read it anyway, the history of our species

is one that is just full of violence

and really, kind of, a lot of terrible things,

but where all of the goodness is is in the music that we play.

You know, that doesn't get into the books.

We always talk about

these sort of singular terrible events that happen

and what happens after that,

but music is, I think, one of the places

where the history of human goodness resides.

The lineage of what we have put into

the music that we play and how it has come down to us,

that is our history of goodness, you know?

It's our history of peace.

And so that's why it's so important to...

talk about this and to talk about this as musicians,

to talk about this as people who just even enjoy music,

even though I think we should all make music together,

not just listen to it.

But I think that's why it's so important

to talk about the role of music,

because it is...

The only way forward is to talk about that,

because this is -- you know, we really need it.

We need it in so many different --

in so many different arenas of life.

So, I'm gonna play a song that I learned from

someone who was a purveyor of peace with his music,

a man named Joe Thompson,

who grew up in his region of North Carolina,

in Mebane, and was the family --

was the community musician.

So his family band served as the community --

the dances that were always held before TV took over everything.

And I think that he, in his way,

was a pillar of peace in his community

because he always played with whoever came over.

People knew about him. They were proud of him.

And I think, when I think of

the millions of music makers like Joe

who have been a part of our history,

not always written about in the history books,

but just doing the thing, you know, playing the music,

bringing people together in those moments of peace...

So, this is "Lights in the Valley."

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪ Lights in the valley outshine the sun ♪

♪ Lights in the valley outshine the sun ♪

♪ Lights in the valley outshine the sun ♪

♪ Way beyond the moon

♪ Singin' in the valley outshine the sun ♪

♪ Singin' in the valley outshine the sun ♪

♪ Singin' in the valley outshine the sun ♪

♪ Way beyond the moon

♪ Lights in the valley outshine the sun ♪

♪ Lights in the valley outshine the sun ♪

♪ Lights in the valley outshine the sun ♪

♪ Way beyond the moon

♪ Way beyond the moon

♪ Way beyond the moon

Hello, and a warm welcome to The Peace Studio's

"Conversations That #OfferPeace: Building Peace Through Music."

My name is Trymaine Lee, and I'm honored to be joined today

by three absolutely incredible musicians and humanitarians,

all extraordinary examples of peace builders.

And, of course, a big shoutout and warm thank you

to Rhiannon Giddens

for her powerful opening message and performance.

Joining us live from Moscow, Russia,

is Grammy Award-winning opera singer Joyce DiDonato;

from Sofia, Bulgaria,

visionary violinist, activist, and educator Midori Goto;

and from right here in New York City,

acclaimed musician, composer, bandleader, and educator

Wynton Marsalis.

Together, we'll discuss the potential that music has

for empathy-building amidst conflict

and how it can inspire us to see humanity in one another

and learn to act with kindness and compassion

across our differences.

Joyce, Midori, and Wynton, thanks for being here.

But also, let's give a big shoutout

to all of our audience here.

I see folks coming from Cape Cod, San Diego,

Beirut, Lebanon, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee,

Chapel Hill, Boston, and my home state of Jersey.

Now, continue to engage with that chat box.

Tell us what drew you here today.

Obviously, the magnificent panelists,

but give us a sense of what brought you here.

And again, to you all -- Joyce, Midori, Wynton --

thank you so much.

Let's start with this.

[ Coughing ] Excuse me.

The Peace Studio often describes peace

as a concept that forges the relational implications

of communal love with the material impacts

of social, cultural, and economic justice.

Therefore, peace-building requires

not merely the absence of conflict,

but conscious effort by people groups,

communities, and nations to foster relations

grounded in mutual care and respect,

and, of course, to create the conditions under which

all people are treated justly and equitably.

Given this definition,

where do each of you see your work as musicians

intersecting with the notion of being a peace-builder?

And in what ways can music speak to the material

and to the more intangible aspects of peace-building?

Joyce, let's start with you.

[ Chuckles ] Okay.

Well, I'm a little starstruck.

Midori, Wynton, it's so nice to meet you,

and, Trymaine, thank you.

I'm so honored to be here

and to be a part of something constructive and powerful.

And to all of you joining.

That's a really loaded question,

and it's overwhelming to think about.

I think sometimes --

You know, my approach is just one step at a time

and just take the action that I see in front of me.

But when I hear that question, it starts to overwhelm.

I did a project a few years ago

that we took around about four different continents,

and it was called

"In War & Peace: Harmony through Music."

And I was trying to engage the listeners

as they listened to music

to see if they can't bring that concept of peace

and that equilibrium of peace

that we find in the concert hall outside the doors.

And I came across this quote that just really --

it touched me deeply.

And it's that, "The opposite of war is not peace,

it's creation."

And that really struck me powerfully,

because if we're in the business of creating

and we're busy building things and doing things together,

whether it's our own projects or as a community,

it's the idea of destruction is taken off the table.

And I think that's really powerful.

I'm just now doing some of my first concerts back,

and they're to limited audiences.

But the power of being in a concert hall and in a theater

with people again, as they're sitting side by side,

having all just endured this big period

of quarantine and silence and isolation,

and coming back together to console each other

and to find solace in the music has been so powerful.

And that, for me,

is always the step forward that I'm doing --

Exactly as Rhiannon was talking about in the intro.

It is that the goodness of humanity that comes together

when we're creating together,

and that can be those of us on stage making it,

but the audience is participating as well

in partaking in this story

and going along on the emotional journeys with us as well.

And there's so much power in doing that side by side.

Midori, I want you to pick up where Joyce left off --

this idea of humanity and community-building

as this great force not just for entertainment,

but for true peace-building.

I think that it has already been said

that peace isn't just the absence of violence,

and that is absolutely true, and I strongly believe that

peace is also a state of mind for each individual

and that music has so much power to do so many different things.

It allows people to, first of all,

very importantly in the case of building peace,

to come together, to start discussions.

We have to come together first in order to be able to discuss,

to be able to exchange ideas.

Music also allows for us to be consoled.

Music allows us to imagine, to be creative,

to empower, to feel connected.

And so, music, in this sense, can play a key role among many,

but that it could play a role in building peace,

bringing people together, bringing communities together.

And because the music actually has no agenda...

Mm. ...it actually really

allows for people to be starting

a discussion at the same level.

It may be that sometimes people --

I am very much engaged in community-engagement work,

and in some cases, people actually start, perhaps,

with an idea that they are bringing something,

they're giving something to the community.

But then, very quickly, we all learn that we are given so much

by this process of sharing music

and that we are really in the act

of doing something together, this collaboration.

And I think that this is also

a key component of building peace --

doing things together, working on it together,

learning to be with each other, learning to cooperate,

and learning to build something that's inside us,

not something that we're bringing from only the outside

and trying to make something beautiful.

This is something that comes from inside us.

And music is also non --

non, you know, sort of...

Well, it has no agenda,

and it has actually this ability to exist in everyone.

There is -- I don't believe that there's culture without music.

There's no groups of --

You know, there can't be groups of people

where they don't start to communicate

when you put them together.

And then, also, because we all have feelings

and that there is this desire to communicate,

there is a desire for us to connect,

and there is a desire for us to express.

And what else besides music can be as effective?

Yeah, when I hear Midori talk about this --

the intangibles, right?

Building something within,

but also building something as community,

talk a little bit more about that.

I know this has been central in your work,

connecting folks and building something

that's more than just the brick and mortar.

There's something inside.

Well, I think that, first,

it's an honor to be with everybody.

Midori -- I've loved her

and known her work for such a long time.

She's been -- [Chuckles] been working for decades

literally on these subjects.

But I think if you take what everybody's said...

We haven't started off talking about the local community

and administering to them.

And, with Joyce, she said,

"Well, you take the step in front of you."

You know, I'm looking at the stuff that --

what's around me.

I want to create peace and change of that.

And then, if you look at Midori, really a beautiful sentiment

she said about us being at peace with ourselves

so that we can come to a situation

with an internal peace.

And if we take just the relationship

of the individual to the community,

it's that thing we learn in families.

Sometimes we learn it more painfully

than in other times, but...

Let's always remember that people imitate.

And what people see --

When we see, we're going to imitate those things,

and what music does is it sets a table for us,

a table of meaning,

because it's also the song in a person's voice,

that lets you know something about them.

Martin Luther King used the same words we all use.

But when he started to sing those words,

we could hear the underlying meaning,

and that meaning is in song.

Another thing that music does for us is

it sets the level for what is virtuous.

We call it virtuosity.

But, when a culture loses its sense of what virtuous means,

it loses its sense of itself.

So, in terms of music,

tangibly, in terms of the range and diversity of styles

that have been integrated in any given piece,

you can pick a composer -- Anybody who's serious,

they're integrating materials from all over

with the creation of a mutually creative space.

Midori was talking about that,

what it takes for us to come together.

In New Orleans jazz, that's what we do.

When I started playing in parades,

man, I was always the saddest one out there.

But I would notice how -- The old cast would say,

"Man, you played -- The amount you should play

should be up to the level of what you know.

But you don't know nothing,

so stand here with your horn and pretend like you play."

And you just learn the communal way we work the music out.

And the other thing that you learn in music about peace,

in that type of music, is how to create space.

Just because you have the ability to improvise

does not mean it's time to do that.

And, finally, just...

there's a symbiotic power of people coming together

just to rehearse and to do something.

And if you see Joyce and Midori and I,

we're working on one piece of music

that's written from someone in another century.

It's been published, copied.

We're in a concert hall, we're working on our parts,

somebody's conducting,

all kinds of people are playing,

families of instruments coming together,

and we're gonna do that

for one hour and a half or two hours.

So it's an intense experience.

It lasts for a long time.

With a development section, all of the things that you get

just from being in that type of of scenario

is the embodiment of peace, from a symbolic standpoint.

So, I'm gonna just conclude by saying,

a beautiful thing that Joyce was saying

was that the opposite of war is creation.

And then we talk about co-creation.

And once, my brother -- my little brother asked me,

"What is the opposite of harmony?"

And I told him, "The opposite of harmony is unison,

because you just have everybody doing the same thing."

And the fact that all of us can come together

from different perspectives --

also something Midori was saying --

it requires an ability to negotiate a space

and to embrace a concept of co-creation

which is, in its own way,

symbolic of the process of peace.

Wynton, I love the idea and the allusion

of music as a table setter --

setting a table and inviting people to come to this table

and hold hands collectively together.

And, as of late, you know,

young people have been invited to the table,

and more of them are growing in their awareness of injustice,

inequality in the world, and pushing to make a difference

and bring about substantial and lasting change.

Where do you see the most opportunity

for young aspiring artists, musicians,

and citizens of the world

to create the most impactful change?

And if the goal is to change some of the ways our culture

or a particular community functions,

what are some of the impediments to change,

and what role can musicians and artists perhaps play

in removing those impediments?

And let's just stick with you, Wynton.

Well, I see the problem as a pervasive one.

Anywhere they look, there's work to be done,

so I'mma go back to Joyce, what she said --

So change stuff around you.

And I like to see them create works

that bring communities into harmony --

through -- into harmony and balance

as they also press for changes through agitation.

I don't want them to think that agitation

is the only way to create change.

And I'm gonna turn it over to someone...

Joyce talked first.

I just don't want to -- you know, 'cause I could go on.

So I'mma go against my tradition.

I want to see -- I'll butt in.

That's a rarity. He's ending the mic early.

He's ending the mic early. Yeah.

[ DiDonato laughs ] Yeah, man. Okay.

Did Wynton just hand it to me? Oh, my goodness.

Wynton, I could listen to you talk all night.

It's really -- It's beautiful wisdom,

and...yeah.

I was struck -- I was so bowled over

by Amanda Gorman in the inauguration speech.

And not only was it an extraordinary poem

that, at any moment in time, would have stood in its own,

but it was so pinpoint perfect for that moment.

And it was extraordinary to me

because she had the mainstream news media

on the biggest day, arguably, in years that had happened

under the banner of the United States of America

talking about poetry and the power of words

and the way those words were delivered.

It was -- I sat there awestruck,

and it was the perfect example of a young adult

who had been given tools to express herself.

I mean, I think she would have done this no matter what,

but she clearly has been supported and nurtured

from an early age about what it is

to develop her thoughts and expressions through poetry,

something that doesn't belong in today's world, right?

It doesn't belong in the world of Instagram and all of this.

And she held us spellbound for nearly six minutes.

And it was the confidence that she delivered it,

and that confidence comes from doing it

in front of other people

and having absolute faith

in the word of what you're saying.

So, for me, that is the banner of how to go forward

and how to make change and how to have your voice heard.

And she delivered it in such an emotionally raw and powerful way

that it was a throwback to the great orators

that have forged this country and this world

over the centuries.

And it was electric,

and I still get chills when I think about it.

And that's the power of art.

And it was musical, what she did.

It was musical in the way she delivered it,

in the way -- the fall and the rise of the poetry

and the words.

And I think this was something brilliant.

She didn't cower down because of her age.

She didn't apologize or bring this kind of humble,

sort of meek presence to the biggest moment in her life

and in our nation's life.

She owned it, and she stood up because she'd been taught it

and she had experience and she'd been supported.

So that falls on our shoulders as citizens, as educators --

How we empower young people to find their voice

and give them chances to express it.

How we give them tools to work through everything

that's happening in the world around them --

tools to study history.

You know, I'm seeing music now that is addressing many of

the same senses of isolation and frustration and despair.

So let's go to the classics, because a lot of these people

have worked out these problems before.

But we have to be ensconced in that culture

and that history to understand what it is.

And I can't think of any greater example

than what she showed us on January 20th.

Midori, I want to pull you in here.

As Joyce mentioned, you know,

sometimes the world can be very, very dark.

But if Amanda Gorman is any indication,

the future looks very bright.

Talk about tapping into youth --

empowering them and helping them be the beacons that they can be,

guiding us into the future.

First of all, I think that working with young people

gives such a wonderful perspective to the older ones,

and it actually allows us to have a different perspective,

perhaps, from what we had when we were younger.

And this actually is a way of connecting, as well,

that actually brings us together.

Working together binds us together.

And I really do believe in collaboration.

I do believe in working together,

how working together can bring so much more,

that it can multiply.

When you're actually working on your own,

it doesn't multiply,

but when you're working with others,

it can really grow and it can multiply.

And this, I think, is so beautiful.

And this, of course, can be said not just about music --

about all other forms of art, other efforts.

But I do have to stress the fact

that being able to work together in music

has givenme a lot of joy and belief

and strong -- strong, you know, confidence

that the future is going to be a better place.

I do think that it is important that,

as adults or the older ones,

that we give as much opportunity

for children to be able to explore

that there are places to be expressive,

that it is possible to express, to safely express,

to find a safe place,

and yet to go on an adventure,

to go and find out different things,

to discover.

So, I think it's very much in our hands to be able

to give this opportunity to the young people.

But then also, when theyare in the process of discovering,

that we can then support them.

We can support them,

and we cannot, you know, stop them,

but we should really support them.

And not to give only our perspective,

share our perspective, but that we can also,

you know, encourage them to even look further.

And as we do this, we also can learn.

We need to be open to their ideas

and their process and their results.

And by showing us, by sharing this,

whether you like to call it mentoring or whatever else,

this act of mentoring that they experience,

we hope also that they will one day mentor others.

Now, getting back also to what you had said

very, very, very much in the beginning of this question,

you know, how can young people make an impact?

As Wynton said, the need is everywhere.

I also said earlier

that I strongly feel that this peace of mind

is something that's from inside us.

We don't have to be looking for particular situations.

We don't have to be looking for a particular place.

It is withus.

We can start here and now,

and we can actually start immediately.

Jump in, Wynton. I see you Amen-ing over there.

Amen. Yeah, I gotta Amen it

because that's one of the main things,

is to move stuff out of the verbal.

It's, a lot of hard language goes on, you know?

And I want to go to just the point we were talking --

Midori was saying about the difference between --

the different types of young people.

Like, with kids, elementary school kids,

yeah, you want freedom.

All of this stuff is possible. Let's keep everything mixed up.

With high school kids, there's gotta be more discernment.

With college students, more.

So, what I say a lot about young people,

for us who are older,

don't remove obstacles that make younger people strong.

So, the second part of your question

was about impediments to change

and what role can we play in removing those impediments.

Those impediments are there for a reason.

It's called antagonistic cooperation.

I always give them the example, a doctor doesn't somewhere

people are struggling from malaria and say,

"Man, there's a lot of people ill with malaria."

Yeah, you're the doctor.

So, you know, corrupt traditions,

greed, failing systems,

they create imbalances.

And then we philosophize our way out of the imbalance

because human beings are not gonna sit in a position

that they're uncomfortable with philosophically.

They're gonna adjust the truths of things

to go with whatever their situation is.

So it's important for artists to function

in all the different ways we function.

One way, you can be a mouthpiece of the divine,

but you can also be a person playing

in a place of ill repute.

All of these things work together in the human condition,

and we go up and down the entire chakral system.

For our younger people, we have to empower them,

but we have to put that...

We have to force them to understand,

hey, this stuff is serious out here,

and this is not a bed of roses, it's not Disneyland.

And when you step out there, you're gonna get slapped,

and be prepared for what's coming, but it's worth it.

So, you could be a community worker.

You could be a voice of reason.

You could be a community activist for a cause.

You can be a fundraiser.

I loved -- I loved to hear Joyce talk about Amanda Gorman.

One of the lines in that poem -- my beat may be kind of off --

was she said, "Silence does not mean peace."

Like, you know, silence means somebody teached you so bad,

you're not gonna say anything.

So, for us, as artists,

yeah, it's important for us to understand

that our ways of participating can be endless.

If we take what Midori was saying,

put your tent down where you are, you know?

Joyce, antagonistic cooperation --

I was stuck on that one.

I was looking for my pen and pad.

I was like, "Antagonistic cooperation."

With that idea, I wonder, when you were coming up

and you were getting into your art and really tapping in,

what were some of those tough lessons

that you learned that you carry on today,

but also that you would impart in other young people?

I mean, I think one of the really hard things was

that nobody was gonna do this for me.

[ Chuckles ]

How nobody was gonna hand it to you or,

you know, give it to you.

And it's funny, because it's a very solitary path

as a musician and a solo musician,

and when you're out on the stage

or you're performing,

you are the sole person responsible for that.

But at the same time,

you need a lot of support going forward,

and that causes you to dig deep

and find true self-responsibility

for what you're putting out -- how you're preparing yourself,

how you're -- the integrity that you bring to the stage,

to the rehearsal process.

There's a real sense of responsibility that is primal,

I think, to go out and to dare

to make music in front of people.

And the other thing that I would challenge them is,

as they go through the rehearsal --

the study process and start to grow,

that they constantly refine

what it is they want to say with their music.

And I think that, being really clear about

what your intention is -- to be a servant in the world...

I think -- You know, we're not here to be stars and all of that.

We're here to be servants.

You hear everybody talking today,

especially if you're at the beginning,

that it is, we're here to serve the community.

We're here to elevate, I think,

the culture around us and the world around us.

And so it's really important

that we have that clear in our heads.

Everything that Wynton is talking about,

those impediments, it is so true.

We don't want them in the way. We want it to be smooth sailing.

But those are the scars and the battle wounds

that actually really help forge the point of view

and the discipline that it needs to take

to go out there, so the gut-check moments --

I mean, I've had people say

I had nothing to offer as an artist,

that I had not much talent...

Had a talent for communication, but not for singing.

And those were gut-check moments that I...

Once the crying is over and you take the hit,

you have to come back, and if you want to go forward,

you have to say, "Where's the truth in that?

Why would they say that, and what do I need to look at?"

It's -- It's...grueling at times

to have those kind of gut-check moments as an artist,

but it's paramount because that's the kind of introspection

we have to bring to ourselves

so that we can bring it to the music

so that it can arrive to the audience

and invite the listener to take on

that same kind of introspection.

I would say that's great advice

for artists as well as non-artists.

You know, they say steel sharpens steel.

You have to go through the fire in order to come out stronger.

For a second, I want to turn to our chat group here.

The room is on fire. We have one person --

"Music, the universal language of love and peace."

Another person says,

"I personally had an experience many years ago

when a piece of music awakened my spirit.

From there, I began to search for ways

to experience inner peace."

One more -- "It's so inspiring to witness

these extraordinary, world-class performing artists

expressing a shared commitment to bringing people together

to make and enjoy music in the service of peace-building."

One other -- Oh, here's a question here.

"Because of jazz's tradition of improvisation, as Wynton said,

it's all about conversation between the players

and between the players and the audience.

In your traditions, Joyce and Midori,

is conversation with the players

have had as large a role as in jazz,

where listening is key,

or is the conversation more with the composer and the audience?"

Joyce, Midori, I think that's an interesting question.

Yeah, Midori. Let me --

...the idea of collaboration.

There was a lot baked into that.

Whoever asked that question has done this before.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Collaboration and conversation.

It's, yes, there are a thousand, at least,

conversations going on in one piece of music.

If you're in an orchestra,

everybody is conversing with each other

and trying to make one sound.

I also feel like

I'm in conversation with the composer

and every performer that has done this over the centuries.

Somehow, I'm just joining that little line of vibration.

I'm adding my voice in that moment in time to it,

but then it continues on.

And that conversation has been going

since Mozart first wrote the piece,

or Strauss, or Marsalis, or whoever has written that.

It's continuing a conversation

that starts at a moment in time

and is infinite as long as people are listening to it

and responding. For sure.

Midori, talk about that -- Oh, Wynton.

No. Midori. She's been out here...

You know, I love her.

I want to hear her talk about the, you know, introspection

and about that, you know.

Yeah, she can...

I want to hear that conversation --

The infinite conversation

that goes on between musicians themselves

and those they're collaborating with.

Well, I think that when we talk about communication,

it's never one way.

It's not communication when it's one way,

and it's always two ways -- at least two ways, right?

And then, we ask about this communication

between musicians as we prepare, as we perform,

as we listen to each other, as we collaborate,

as we produce music together,

and there is a conversation that goes on.

It's communication that goes on with your audience.

And the audience also actually communicates

with his or her own self,

and in reaction to this music.

There are multiple levels of communication that go on

when we listen to any style of music.

And verbal communication, maybe on the surface of it,

with certain styles of music, may be happening less.

But what actually happens internally within us,

you know, with our listening, with our internal emotions,

this, I think, is something that happens because it's music,

not because it's a particular style of music.

Jump in, Wynton.

Really, I think, if you put --

Because the first music is language, right?

Everybody learns their language

through the song of the language.

If you think of yourself in a room

and you start to read a letter somebody wrote,

man, you're going through the course of what you're saying,

"Oh, and listen to this part right here.

She said [muttering indistinctly]"

and somebody else said, "Well, I don't know if [speaking indistinctly]

but if you look right here, she"...

You're reading books, we experience it in church --

those who still attend services --

the call and response that goes on.

And, yeah, call and response is a part of life we imitate.

So, the thought of the style of music

and what's known as classical music,

yeah, it's a tradition,

and so many masters wrote unbelievable pieces

that require a certain type of study,

and when you go to perform in front of people,

first, there's tremendous pressure.

So, I want to go to what Joyce was saying,

about the introspection required.

I remember speaking once to Condoleezza Rice,

and she plays piano, and she said,

whenever she would have a really big speech to give,

before she walked out on the stage,

she would say, "Thank the Lord I'm not playing the piano."

So, the music,

the pressure of time is what always is...

If you have -- I was on YouTube

looking at Midori playing something years ago,

some spectacular thing at Carnegie Hall

with all kind of unbelievable stuff to play.

[ Chuckles ]

I looked, and I wanted to just hug her,

because -- I said, "Boy, just to have to execute something,

like, with that kind of difficulty..."

So, you have -- You have the music.

You're playing, you're delivering it to people,

but you have the pressure of playing it.

And all of that is a part of the performance.

In jazz, we have a lot of latitude and ability to improvise,

much more than in other forms of music.

But over the years,

in the way that our music has been taught and translated,

there's so much imitation goes on

that we don't actually use that freedom

the way we should use it.

In a lot of ways, it's the way we've ended up

being in our democracy right now.

We're using our freedoms to make sure nobody else has freedom.

And the older, kind of first jazz,

you have a million different styles.

Now, the styles are not as diverse.

And it's part of what we need to work on --

how to get a greater diversity of styles,

of people using that freedom.

But ja-- or anything that requires you

to work on stuff with people, you have to communicate,

and you're all working together.

And there's a freedom of communication

and phrasing in the space and breath.

Now, when you deal with really great pieces of music,

man, there's so much information on some of those pieces,

you can't believe how intense.

Just somebody like Shostakovich,

there's a guy that the dictator of his country

was trying to kill him --

or was always weighing whether he wanted to kill him.

And what's in his music is so profound that...

Yeah, there's a lot called in response

between musicians and with the community.

Just the story of the "Seventh Symphony,"

even though some of it is exaggerated,

it's still a very powerful story.

For anybody who's listening,

the story of Shostakovich's "Seventh Symphony" --

evenTime magazine did an article on it --

is worth reading and acquainting yourself with it

to understand, kind of, about the power of music

and what it takes.

With the kind of communication aspects of music,

it's not just on the stage.

Hey, Wynton, if ever there is a jam session

with you and Condi Rice, I think I need the invite.

I'm signing up for that one.

I can imagine what would be created.

[ Chuckles ]

You know, she's a concert pianist.

She's gonna be playing with Midori and Joyce.

Yeah. [ Chuckles ]

You know, but I think that actually gives us

a great segue into this idea of

conquering divides and closing the gaps

in our world today.

In our country especially, there are so many divides --

politically, racially, generationally.

And I wonder if each of you can give a real-world example

of how some piece of work or art that you created

helped to kind of bridge those divides,

because, again, we're all searching for answers here.

Midori, let's go to you first.

I think there are many great examples that can be said,

but I would like to bring an attention from all of you

to what happens in a youth orchestra.

And I love my work with youth orchestras,

and you feel such wonderful energies,

and you feel also the energies of people that surround them,

that support them, and it's beautiful.

But youth orchestra is an organization

that actually brings musicians from all over town

to come together, to learn from each other,

to make music together, to start discussing again,

to start a conversation, and through learning,

through a rehearsal of the wonderful symphonic works,

one learns to play together, one learns about discipline,

one learns about respect,

one learns to explore, to express emotions,

one learns about history through the composers,

and one learns how to actually

really put our feelings into the sound,

to make our expressions more outward.

And in a very safe way.

And so, this is where I think

that different ideas can come together,

can be explored together, in a safe environment,

and tried out.

And I think it's one of the fine examples --

Playing in a youth orchestra,

being a part of a youth orchestra --

to see all different types of collaborations going on

and be a part of this collaboration.

Being part is a very important learning process.

It's not just in theory, but you're doing it.

You're doing it...

And when there's something direct like this, yeah?

So it's just not something that happens over there

or maybe in a different century.

No, you're playing a piece that was written 250 years ago.

You are making it live.

You are actually then playing with other musicians

and trying to make this happen.

It's a very, very powerful experience,

and one learns life experiences.

These are life lessons that one learns

in the microcosm of a youth orchestra.

So, I would actually say that youth orchestra

is one great example

of how music can really participate

in peace-building.

Joyce, let's go to you --

That idea of a real-world example

of some work you've done with your art to bridge a divide.

I've had two really transformative experiences,

and, actually, one picks up on what Midori is talking about.

It's the El Sistema system at a concert --

at a refugee camp in Greece,

the Skaramagkas Refugee Camp.

And what they do differently there,

which I think is genius,

is that they have started an orchestra there

in the El Sistema system,

so the older kids are teaching the younger kids,

and you have kids from Palestine next to Congo,

next to Iraq, Iran --

people from these regions that are so troubled.

You also have their parents who are still alive,

still with them, side by side in the audience,

watching [chuckles] basically a United Nations panel of kids

making one sound together.

And I think the impact and the divides that are bridged --

not only in the orchestra, but also from the parents

watching their kids learn a new skill,

come out of their shells, and join musically

in a kind of community with people

that they wouldn't normally -- is very powerful.

The other is in the work with Carnegie Hall.

They do an incredible program

in association with Música Comedia,

and they go into Sing Sing maximum-security prison,

and they're teaching men incarcerated there

to write music and to play instruments.

And it's a mind-blowing experience to go there.

And I've had the honor of going a few times.

Some of the men have written music for me.

One of the men who [chuckles] intimidated me the most

on my first visit there, his name is Joseph.

I was a little intimidated by him,

and he had written a piece for me to sing as a duet,

but I didn't have the music ahead of time,

so I was hearing it on the spot,

and he was describing a murder that he had committed,

and he was working his way through

what it is to ask for forgiveness.

And it was an extraordinary exchange

from two people that probably, under normal circumstances,

never would have encountered each other.

And, boy, did we encounter each other

at a heart level because of the music.

I came back about 10 months later,

and I had sung some opera on the concert

for a lot of the -- a portion of the general population there.

And when I came back 10 months later,

Joseph was the first guy in the room,

and I don't know how to fully describe

the shift that had happened in him,

but it's like the light was on behind his eyes,

and he said, "Joyce, I have so much I want to share with you."

And I said, "Me, too, Joseph.

I've been telling your story everywhere."

And he said, "Before you came here,

I didn't know opera existed.

But now I know I want to write one,

I have to write one."

And a year later, we were back,

and I was singing a duet with him

from this opera, "Tabula Rasa," that he had written.

And it was the same theme as the opera

I was singing at the Met the same time, in "Norma."

It was about forgiveness --

unspeakable shame and still asking for forgiveness.

And this was a tool that this man had been given

to start working through his trauma and his life.

And I'm glad he has it now.

But there's a big part of me that wonders

what would have happened if he'd had it in school.

And, you know, there's no easy, clear answer, of course,

but those tools...

those actual tools that are

really transformative and helpful

have been stripped away from our youth in our country.

And now it's happening around the world.

And in my mind, it's criminal, because it's...

Without a way of expressing,

kids will find different ways to do it.

And those are ways that we have to think about --

if that's what we want in our society.

So, I see -- this seems like an easy fix, but it's not,

for all the reasons Midori was talking about --

What you have to learn,

where you have to go to study an instrument

and to perform together,

it ticks all the boxes of what we want

from productive, beautiful civilians in society

that can come from any walk of life.

Wow, when you talk about connecting on a heart level,

that story is -- I feel blown away.

You can imagine -- The power of the force

to move that individual in that direction is amazing.

Wynton, talk to us about, you know, a real-world example

where you've created art or work that helped bridge the divide,

emotionally or otherwise.

I mean, everything is connected, you know,

so it could be youth orchestras

working with younger people all the time,

working with their parents.

You know, what Joyce is saying --

going into prisons, playing...

I've been...

You know, the most difficult thing, I think...

With works of art, I always write --

Every decade, I write some piece

about America and social injustice, racism,

with the fact of what our identity

and who we are and what we're about.

I try to always bring the generation gap together

in our institution programming --

people, different people, together.

But I think that, for me, it's --

Mainly, my most difficult thing

has been battling a corrupt and racist media

and arguing against minstrel-show images

and ghetto safari mythology to death,

which America loves.

And it's hard to be against your own group of people

that you come from.

And I've been against it for 40 years,

and it takes up a lot of time.

And it's so pervasive and it's so destructive

to the internal part of the culture --

Use of the N-word on songs,

the kind of misogyny, gangsterism,

all the things that affect the community that I come from

in a very negative way that has been accepted

and is knocking down the halls of very...scholarship,

as many times, corruption does.

And just, what I tell my young people,

"You have to be ready to battle well-funded corruption."

And it's been -- it is -- it has been a struggle,

and even at the age I am now, 40 years into it,

it's still a struggle.

So, I think I could -- I'm always about that,

bringing people together,

and also being very forcefully against

that which is popular

but extremely ignorant and very charismatic.

When that charismatic ignorance hits you,

you got something on your hands.

Midori, there are so many forces,

as Wynton and Joyce laid out there --

so many forces that pick at us, at our humanity,

and I wonder, as bleak as things can sometimes be,

are you hopeful?

Are you optimistic about the direction

we could possibly be going?

Are we at an inflection point?

I am. I am absolutely optimistic.

I believe in the future.

And I think that,

when we decide that we only want certain things,

then we end up losing,

and when we stay open, we stay open-minded

and we allow ourselves to be a part of a process,

to actually be a part of a process

of bringing something different and something new,

and hopefully for the better,

then other opportunities open up.

And new opportunities for more new ideas,

new spark that actually is ignited inside us to do more.

So, I do think that it's important for us not to actually say,

"Okay, we're going to do this, and that's it,"

but that we keep our minds open

and that we keep ourselves flexible.

And being flexible, it's another way

of staying respectful of others

and of our own abilities.

And so, I think that being able to have this feeling,

that we don't have to just focus on one thing,

but that we can be doing many things,

and then we allow ourselves to learn,

we allow ourselves to be touched,

we allow ourselves to be able to be inspired

and, as well, to inspire,

I think there's definitely hope in the future.

I think that is a great final word to leave that on.

I could, honestly -- and I'm not just saying this --

do this literally all day.

The four of us can just have a conversation,

recorded or not, and it'd be wonderful.

But seriously, thank you so much

for joining us for The Peace Studio's

"Conversations That #OfferPeace: Building Peace Through Music."

We hope this conversation was inspiring

and that you might find yourself reminded of the power you have

to build a more just and loving community, wherever you are,

through your choices and actions.

♪♪

♪♪

♪ Take my hand

♪ These oceans still have waves ♪

♪ Tell me why the water says

♪ That it will watch us dance again ♪

♪ Take my love

♪ I still know how to sing this song ♪

♪ No matter where we are

♪ We never leave where we belong ♪

♪ La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la ♪

♪ La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la ♪

STREAM CONVERSATIONS THAT #OFFERPEACE ON

  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv

FEATURED PROGRAMS