"Love Can Build a Bridge" Choir Collaboration ― A Conversation with Emilie Amrein, DMA

Friday, February 1, 2019

Emilie Amrein headshot
begin quoteI love the idea of utilizing music for building social cohesion, encountering difference and creating spaces for us to discover truths about our common humanity and our own humanity, and I think music is well positioned to do that.

What drove you to do a collaboration with USD Just Read! and the Voices of Our City Choir?

I am really interested in the intersection of social programming with music making. So when Ryan Scrimger, theatre faculty and CEE interim associate director, suggested the idea many months ago, I was inspired by the idea. I have a friend and colleague who is on the board of directors for the Voices of Our City Choir, so I was familiar with the organization in advance of Ryan’s idea.

The connection is actually interesting and might be useful in terms of framing this collaboration: My daughter has special needs and is taking music therapy through an organization here in San Diego, and her music therapist is the treasurer for the Voices of Our City Choir.

So I love the idea of utilizing music for building social cohesion, encountering difference and creating spaces for us to discover truths about our common humanity and our own humanity, and I think music is well positioned to do that.

What do you hope to get out of this performance?

I think of the goals for this collaboration as being experiential for my students and for me―this idea of displacing ourselves purposefully.

We are going to visit the Voices of Our City Choir at their rehearsal on Friday. I love the idea of going off campus, taking our students and myself out of our comfort zone and encountering this other group of human beings who are making music and who are expressing their experiences through this common activity that we share and love. I think it will be illuminating and transformative for both my students and myself to make music together.

I think whenever you leave your comfort zone and get in proximity to people you may have some things in common with, but perhaps many differences with, I think that it is a revealing experience and can really blow your mind in terms of recognizing the humanity of others and within yourself. It’s less about the performance and more about the relationship that we are building with these encounters with the Voices of Our City Choir.

As for the February event, inviting an audience into the relationship is the best possible way to frame the performance. We’ve built this relationship over the course of a couple facilitated encounters. Then at the performance, we are inviting an audience into the relationship, sharing the truths we have recognized in those moments. We hope that in the performance, the audience is also able to recognize the humanity of the people who are performing and also within themselves.

How can music transform USD's relationship with the community? How can music bring to light these social issues?

I think that music and the arts are a great way to establish relationships, to extend who we are as a campus into a dialogue with the rest of the people who are living here in this community. The arts are important and vital to build, establish, sustain and grow a relationship.

Since the beginning of time, human beings have used the arts to articulate social identities, to negotiate relationships, to interrogate power structures and to bring social issues to light. The engagement with the lived experiences of a community―this is what protest music and group signing has been about for a long time: the civil rights movement, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights, the labor movement, the contemporary social movements and every social struggle. Music has played such a huge role because it has such a powerful capacity to mobilize people, to inspire empathy, to build solidarity amongst groups of people, to energize them and to move them towards goals; music is really powerful in that regard.

The way that music and the arts interact with our community currently at USD and in San Diego, I think there’s a lot of room for these relationships to be strengthened and I am excited about this collaboration. It is one of the many ways that USD can engage the art-making, music-making and theatre-making community here in San Diego for these kind of social goals.

Visit the CEE website to learn more about the choir performance on February 25. 

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