Social Justice, Music Come Together in Common Ground Voices / La Frontera

Social Justice, Music Come Together in Common Ground Voices / La Frontera

Emilie Amrein, DMA, is an accomplished conductor, scholar, and educator, specializing in creative programming practices and community engagement. As an assistant professor of choral studies in the University of San Diego’s Department of Music and conductor of the Choral Scholars program, she’s always embraced opportunities to learn, grow and create with a social justice lens.

A trip to Jerusalem enabled her to learn about Common Ground Voices, an international project choir initiated by the Eric Ericson International Choral Centre in 2016 based in and around Jerusalem. Inspired by the trip and this discovery, Amrein wanted to make something happen.

Fast forward to March 2019 and Amrein’s interest became a binational showcase for Common Ground Voices/La Frontera to emerge.

“Common Ground Voices/La Frontera translates the mission of the original ensemble into a new geographic frame, generating meaningful collaboration through music, exploring and creating music of shared human values and aspirations, contributing to community music as an exercise of non-violence, and utilizing music as a springboard for a meaningful discussion about social and political change within the group as well as with the society in general,” she said.

Amrein, along with Boston University Professor of Music and Music Education Chair, André de Quadros, spent USD’s spring break week bringing together a diverse group of 26 artists, including a few USD students, to perform music on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border in a peacebuilding community setting. Throughout its week-long residency, Common Ground Voices/La Frontera considered forced migration, identity, place, belonging, and shared humanity in this politically charged and historically contested region.

The group performed in Tijuana, during a keynote address by Amrein and Quadros, to the Campus Compact Continuums of Service audience at USD and at the Bread and Salt building in Barrio Logan. On March 9, they visited the U.S.-Mexico border’s International Friendship Park area to sing and converse through the fence to those on the Mexico side of the border.

— Story by Ryan T. Blystone, Video by Allyson Meyer '16

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