Share Your Ideas with Boston Children’s Chorus

BCC-Finalist

Our adaptive challenge

Because deep and meaningful relationships don’t automatically form just by bringing diverse people together or by physically locating programs in underserved neighborhoods, Boston Children’s Chorus will inspire a sense of belonging across social and racial lines and a more just community in the future by approaching our work in a community-centric vs. arts-centric way and redefining our relationship with our communities by being open, active listeners and building trust.

Read more about the big thinking, deep questioning, and visions for the future in Boston Children’s Chorus’s project.

We ask the crowd:

  1. What role do racial dynamics play in creating obstacles for arts/cultural organizations that want to be more inclusive, effective, vibrant and relevant? Who else in the field has discovered how to address these dynamics in order to overcome the obstacles, and what practices or learnings from others might BCC be able to incorporate?
  2. What other nonprofit organizations, especially youth arts organizations, are concerned about social bridging — that is, inspiring a sense of connection and belonging among people across socioeconomic and racial lines — and are already doing it well? What are the effective strategies and pitfalls that BCC could learn from these models and translate to our own work?

How will your responses help us move forward in tackling our adaptive challenge?

We are proud of the strong artistic platform we have built, and now it is our responsibility to bring balance to our integrated mission. We are hungry to learn what other organizations have encountered, tested, and successfully put into practice. We firmly believe that the arts are an effective means for bringing people together and dissolving social and racial barriers. We also firmly believe in learning from others in the sector who may also be concerned with these issues. Your contributions will allow us to come from a position of greater strength as we head in this new direction.

Share your responses with us (or “up-vote” ideas you like) in the comments section below.

About
Boston Children's Chorus is an afterschool music education program that provides sustained learning in music literacy, vocal technique, performance, and leadership skills for children ages 7-18. BCC serves 450 youth across differences of race, religion and socioeconomic status from over 80 neighborhoods of Greater Boston.

  • Karina MW

    Boston Children’s Chorus – You should definitely take a look at the Active Arts program at LA Music Center. They do an amazing job of social bridging communities through engaging amateur dancers, drummers, ukele players, and singers in participatory activities on the outdoor pavilion at the Center. http://www.musiccenter.org/events/activearts/

    • Ben Hires, BCC Dir of Programs

      Thanks for sharing Karina. I really like the Active Arts program. The Friday night sing-alongs (and other programs) look very engaging and bridge lots of different folks. There seems like there may be some of the targeting of communities that Nina Simon pointed out that Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History has gotten away from with great results. Do you have a sense if the positioning and strategy of the Active Arts program is to target specific groups or do the general art forms themselves gain interest? I also think the demographics and community pockets of each city are slightly different so strategies will recognize what art forms or locations make sense.

  • Eric Booth

    Hello BCC Colleagues. Your research questions address sensitive issues in a direct, positive and valuable way. Thank you. In a culture that is perennially uncomfortable dealing with issues of race, I am glad you are turning your research attention toward this sensitive area. I find arts and arts and arts education colleagues range across the spectrum of answers—from the extremes of “racism underlies the inability of arts
    organizations to expand to embrace new audiences” to “racial issues are now old
    news, the relevant questions are about poverty, regardless of race.” Of course
    the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    I led some discussions recently among leaders in El Sistema-inspired programs in the U.S. about whether we should explicitly address racial issues with students or not. The vast majority of faculty are white, and the vast majority of students, families, and communities are people of color. Many in the discussion said their faculty weren’t racist at all, and so we didn’t need to deal with the issue. Others asserted it was important to model inclusivity by having transparent discussion, so that students can grow up in an environment where important social issues and questions are openly discussed—El Sistema is as much a youth development program as a musical one. One passionate teacher argued that they were nurturing inner-city students to succeed, which means thrusting them into social situations amid where they have never been before, and where racially-complex situations might well appear. He claimed we do the students a disservice if we do not prepare them to be aware, and handle appropriately, and able to discuss their experiences when they come back to the music learning center.

    Some years ago, many racial diversification programs in the arts, “outreach” programs, changed their names to become about inclusion and “community
    engagement” rather than about racial diversity. The semantic change suggests
    some new learning, even though many programs haven’t changed much under the new name. I have seen a growing recognition that a Martin Luther King Day concert
    featuring music by African-American composers, does not constitute a true community engagement program or genuine inclusion.

    In my view, the issue of inclusion and revitalizing audiences is more basic than race. I think the high arts in the U.S. tend to be for the “Arts Club,” the 7% or so of Americans who have a background in the arts and identify themselves as arts lovers. Some additional percentage are visitors but not club members. And then there are the vast majority of the population who probably have artistic vitality in their lives, but don’t want to join the Art Club. Many arts organizations assume those not in the Club think like them, and would have experiences like theirs if they just showed up. This myopic view colors their thinking—they don’t realize that huge swaths of the public don’t feel comfortable or safe in their buildings. They look at what’s in the program and are LESS able to make a connection to the performance as a result. Race is an
    approximate way to discuss this deeper problem of not truly listening to, not
    being authentically open to, people who don’t share their background and belief
    system about the arts.

    The irony is that the un-included often have big healthy lives in the arts, just not the way the arts organizations like to define the arts. Arts organizations that truly open their ears and intentions to engage with communities that don’t show up in their buildings, and build authentic relationships over time, are revitalized by the new partnership. I think of Woolly Mammoth Theatre in DC and Carnegie Hall as exemplars.

    And I recommend you contact two arts education organizations that have done deep and committed work around racial and social equity issues in their programs. The work is so good they are increasingly asked to share it with other organizations. No surprise—they also do extremely good arts education work with kids. I recommend Arts Corps, in Seattle (http://www.artscorps.org), and Dreamyard in the Bronx (http://dreamyard.com). Both made racial awareness and leadership on this issue a high priority in their programs, faculty practice, and in everything their organization does. They committed years of work to refine what this means for them, and are honing ways to share their practices and priorities with others.

    Thank you BCC for your interest in this topic. The beautiful work you do with young artists will deepen and enrich their lives even more as you inquire into and embody your own understanding of how to address racial issues and open up true inclusion through your work.

    • Ileana Tauscher

      Thank you so much for the kind words and for the insightful, thoughtful comment. You touched upon so many important themes that we regularly confront at BCC! We do make a point of including our singers in discussions about race. This year we co-commissioned a piece by composer Daniel Roumain that dealt heavily with the issue of race. Before the performance, BCC organized a panel discussion during which our singers were able to devote an entire evening to sharing their thoughts on this particular theme in the music. This certainly wasn’t the first time that the children have confronted material that requires deep reflection on racial issues, nor was it the first time that their insight and contribution to discussions proved they were more than capable of engaging in these types of conversations.

      As for your thoughts on those that feel ostracized by the “Art Club”, this is the reason part of BCC’s social mission is to use art as a means of empowerment. We couldn’t agree more that there is much more involvement in the arts than people might imagine, and that it comes in many different forms. Allowing people to participate in perhaps untraditional ways fosters inclusivity and strengthens relationships, which is what we mean to do.

  • Amy Segal Shorey

    BCC-

    You are doing a great job at the bridging work, and your special efforts in this area this season are showing. Crossing neighborhood, race, class, and income barriers for youth and for adult audience development is difficult in a city as traditionally segregated as Boston. It is far easier for people to talk about the wonderful, talented young people and the beautiful music they make than to address the underlying issues that separate. Your job is to focus your young people, families, and audiences on those hard issues without neglecting the exuberance that comes from running a successful youth arts organization. One great local example of a mature organization that has been quite successful at bridging is The Food Project. The content is different but the principles the same.

    • Jan Woiler Meuse

      Amy, as always, we appreciate your vote of confidence! Thank you for raising The Food Project as an example of successful bridging. We will take a look!!

    • Ben Hires, BCC Dir of Programs

      Thanks for recognizing BCC’s work. As you mention, our work is not only about great music but helping our singers and the wider community understand that issues of race, socio-economic class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc, are still barriers that separate many people literally. We learned in the most drastic way how issues of separation and considering one group is better than another affected a whole country when we took our singers to Cambodia (and Vietnam) and they learned about the Khmer Rouge and the genocide that took place there from 1975 to 1979. One of our 9th graders reflected that they just don’t teach [us] this information in school. One could unfortunately say “we” don’t learn much about what keeps us apart here in the United States! We hope our students gain the skills to navigate difference and conflict because these are sorely needed in today’s world!

  • Ben Hires, BCC Dir of Programs

    Nina you raise an interesting point in your blog post about how targeting can or shouldn’t play a role in social bridging. You point to a more organic type of social bridging. The way you describe what takes place at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, it sounds like a pure occurrence of social bridging. It reminds us how much branding and words matter. We should all remember that concepts and words like race are socially constructed and that it shouldn’t matter if one is a teen, adult or grandparent. There is a level of Derrida’s deconstructionism to all of this – there is an argument that Western values, history, language, etc are based on binary differences (Ferdinand de Saussure) black/white, young/old, male/female, etc. Social bridging or social blurring taking place at the programs you shared might be considered the attempt at one sector of the art world to deconstruct these binary systems and walls we’ve come to accept.

    It is not to say that diversity is the ultimate answer. Derrida would not say that binary discourse is false, but it must be analyzed and criticized and perhaps new concepts and meanings can be created. At BCC, we want to create social bridging but to also recognize and appreciate our differences. There is much work to do!

    • Ben Hires, BCC Dir of Programs

      We are proud to have the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston that Putnam’s “Better Together” discusses. One of the big moves for Dudley is the move of the Boston Public School offices in the center of Dudley at the Ferdinand Building, which will also have open space for student work and community gatherings to support the school community.

  • Doug Borwick

    My questions begin with asking what you seek. Is the goal “simply”
    participants that collectively reflect society more accurately (a heady target
    by itself)? Or is the hope more than that, to partner with the African-American
    community for mutual benefit? (The latter will, of course, have greater impact
    and long-term results.) If so, this demands change, or at least sober
    evaluation of administrative practices and programming.

    What is being done to develop relationships out of which the
    participants you seek might come? There are huge trust gaps between the arts
    community and under-represented populations of all kinds. My standard formula
    for relationship building is Meet-Talk-Work, in which the Talk is actually
    “Listening to learn.” Out of that learning can come an understanding of how the
    art can then serve the interests of the group with which you seek relationship.
    (I sometimes even telescope the Talk to “Listening to serve.”) Social bridging,
    as you have discovered, does not occur through mere proximity; it demands
    dialogue. And it takes time, lots of it.

    Once relationships are established, what is the BCC willing
    to do to achieve and maintain diversity? Almost any serious attempt to
    diversify demands addressing programming. This does not mean presenting work
    that you think (or assume) another group wants. It means knowing them well
    enough to suggest options and having them agree. (If they have suggestions,
    great. It’s just that under-represented populations often have limited
    awareness of what the artistic options might be.) Additionally, entering into
    substantive partnerships with community organizations (ones that address issues
    of importance to the partners) is an important path to the kind of bridging you
    are hoping to create.

    I wish you well in this!

    • Sean

      These are excellent questions raised Steve. From what I’ve seen from BCC, they’re changing their focus. Their recent production “A Boy Called King” was an astonishing subject matter which provoked a lot of reaction.

      The challenge with arts organizations now is to move away from the ‘haven’ situation where kids came come to get away from the world and express themselves in a bubble.

      What should happen is that the kids come to an arts organization and gain perspective and empowerment and want to go out into their communities to build their own bridges. I don’t think organizations can build bridges. I think it’s down to people. Arts organizations are in a unique position of bringing in youths into an expressive environment where they can amplify their feelings and emotions and therefore make connections and develop their understanding. To really, really do this I think artistic subject matter has to provoke discussion and interaction. This kind of artistic programming then builds out into group discussions. The wonderful thing about chorus music is that it demands a huge amount of mentorship. This combined with dialog provoking artistic subject matter can really build bonds between kids and have them bring that model and mindset into their own communities. Again it’s down to the people to build bridges. They can do it. It’s all about framing the mind-set.

      Your “Meet-Talk-Work” is a good formula. Things must be unpacked and opportunities to discuss things must never be passed up. BCC has a diverse bunch of kids so that much is achieved but now it is important to really seize that opportunity to make the interactions meaningful and everlasting. I like what the organization is doing. It’s the right kind of growth.

      • John Connolly

        Hello gentlemen. Both of you bring up great points here. I like that Sean you appreciate what we were trying to do with ‘A Boy Called King.’ It is interesting when you talk of a haven because yes, arts organizations have a strong community element and they can certainly be that place to be for someone to go to find meaning when they are not getting it elsewhere.

        Bruce we do pull from a diverse pool at BCC and we are looking for a mutually beneficial relationship from this commitment. Instantly we put ourselves in the position of being the facilitators of meaningful dialog…and I mean ‘meaningful.’ We challenge the students with high concept artistic expression where strong themes must be explored in order to excel. This requires a huge collaborative effort, and I guess chorus is built on that foundation.

        With that foundation we have found ourselves in a situation where students from diverse backgrounds are willing to express themselves and their perspective in a respectful environment. This alone opens up horizons never before touched. Our challenge is to bring a structure to this. It’s happening organically already and it shows positive results within our walls. To put a structure on this will demand a change in practices to a certain degree. We pursue musical excellence and through our environment and diverse collective there is a dynamic that is created that can have social impact. Our challenge is to wrap that in a structure that supports this social impact to grow. The way these students work together and support each other is amazing. It’s a great maturity that can only serve their respective communities better.

        Sean, you hit upon something that Bruce asked about programming. With ‘A Boy Called King,’ the students met with the composer. He pitched his original work and they gave feedback. It was interesting to see what came out of that conversation. In ways the world makes assumptions that students are empty vessels in which we pour knowledge. Not at all at BCC. We light a fire and they give us their informed reactions. I think this is what has brought us to this discussion.

        Thanks a million for your reactions. You raise excellent points.

        Bruce, can you elaborate on the “Meet-Talk-Work” ? Sounds great by the way.

    • Ben Hires, BCC Dir of Programs

      Doug, BCC wants to reflect society and more specifically Boston’s diversity. Boston is a minority majority city now. We do want to partner with the many different communities that make up this wonderful city. For example, before leaving on a 2 week tour to Vietnam and Cambodia we partnered with a local Unitarian Church, First Parish Church in Dorchester, and Viet-Aid, a community org that focuses on all types of community development in Fields Corner in Dorchester. However, our goals do not stop with reflecting diversity and working with diverse groups. One can do all of these things but still not know the “other.” One can have a room full of diverse people who don’t talk to each other. The good thing is choral music and how we run our programs and performances strategically attempt to break down the barriers of the “other.” We are trying to build “communities, not [just] audiences.”

      Like in choral music and music in general there does need to be a lot of “listening to learn.” Everyone including BCC needs to do this more! Listening probably means a lot of time hearing information that surprises us or even tells we are going in the wrong direction. For example, we held a post concert talk back with a panel discussion last season with the goal of engaging the audience and having them build more of a community. We engaged folks in the talk back’s planning, but evaluating the event we learned a number of things to improve.

      I think you also remind us of some very important challenges to all of our work – that is the process of finding out what others want or need [from the arts – and arts has to be defined here – arts always the ones with conductors and expensive instruments, etc]. All of this takes time and balance. I look forward to getting my hands on your book.

      • Doug Borwick

        Great. Successful community engagement (as opposed to audience engagement) begins with a desire to be a participant in making lives better. It’s not a one-way street on either side. The goal is to improve things for both the arts and for the community. Once both sides get their heads around how unusual the idea is, the work can begin. And, of course, it takes time–a lot of it.

  • John Connolly

    Chaletta…these are great points you raise. There is definitely no ‘one size fits all’ solution to this, and it requires a nuanced approach. I think the key word is “intent” with the development of deliverables. I am familiar with Theater Espresso especially & Medicine Wheel and yes…they do great work in engaging audiences and participants. We can get people in one room in a fantastic learning and leadership environment, and they can be interacting with each other and that is great. However, the responsibility then falls up on us to have those interactions build something that goes beyond the walls in which they occur. That does take some sort of engineering…a more intentional approach whether it be through introducing some discussion based art or formally rooting a discussion module into our teaching. You’re right that we won’t be able to take all this on and make it all happen simultaneously and that we will have to recognize what is element is working and then drive our capacity towards that element in order for it to flourish. Thanks so much for your feedback. It’s hugely helpful.

  • Ben Hires, BCC Dir of Programs

    I don’t have a response to the Zimmerman trial, but I do want to say that it is amazing that many of our singers and alumni have spoken out about the Trayvon Martin case. Our singers, as a result of membership in BCC, have an elevated conscious equity and social justice and it takes the form of them speaking about the Defense of Marriage Act, Trayvon Martin, the Middle East, and the list goes on and on. Some of singers as a result of BCC, have met someone like Trayvon and can have a wider perspective about the debate surrounding the case.

  • Liz Strzepa

    BCC has done an extraordinary job of attracting a wide-range of singers from different socioeconomic, racial, and geographic backgrounds – but in order to move forward, it’s important that you’re addressing these questions, especially with the recent media coverage regarding race and civil rights issues. I think a big reason why my experience with BCC has been so positive is because of the racial diversity in the BCC community. However, with that there are obstacles – such as social stereotypes – that need to be, and are, addressed in order for organizations to be more inclusive, effective, vibrant, and relevant. That being said, I think BCC does do a great job of diversifying its choral groups to present the ‘big picture’ of what the Boston community is really like. It’s not just one race or one socioeconomic class, but rather a mixture of everyone. BCC’s diversity is also portrayed in the wide range of international repertoire you perform. In order to stay more vibrant and relevant, BCC absolutely needs to maintain the diversity of its singers, and continue looking for ways to attract such a wide variety of individuals to the program.

    A really great example of another Boston organization that incorporates diversity is Rhythm of the Universe at Berklee. I saw them perform at the Outside the Box festival the same day BCC performed (July 13) – their performance was outstanding, absolutely blew me away. (It would be really neat to see a collaboration with the two groups). ROTU really focuses on digging deep into the culture of each and every piece they perform, looking into every detail such as costume, native instruments, and dialect when performing – which I thought translated well to audiences, and is something BCC could try. After reading a little more about them, their mission and image is more about an international assembly of music, their group being composed of musicians from 90 different countries, as opposed to BCC’s Massachusetts-based group of singers. I wonder if there’s a way to potentially incorporate these aspects of not only racial diversity, but rather geographic diversity into the group – to show that BCC encompasses and represents such a large and important part of the state. As always, I’m so proud to be associated with such an amazing organization, and am excited to keep the conversation going.

    • John Connolly

      Thanks Liz for a considered response to a complex question. The international diversity of ROTU from Berklee is astonishing. The fact that they come from all over the world means they are obligated to treat each of the musical projects with a forensic delicacy. This pursuit of musical essence means not only a journey of musical ability but also of spirit, humility and compassion. To approach someone or something different from us we have to express some sort of humility and surrender. We have to open ourselves up…no question or else we’ll miss the essence of what we are experiencing and shut ourselves off and thus narrowing the mind. The musical curriculum demands that at BCC and that’s the point we’re delighted with and the point that we want to be the start of something else.

      The community within the BCC family is diverse in nature, and the music we tackle has different beats and language. Someone mentioned ‘A Boy Called King’ where the subject matter of that piece was considered controversial by some. However it allowed BCC singers to critically discuss everyday issues. It provoked discussion. It put the singers in the other person’s shoes. It added elasticity to the mind.

      And so here we are. BCC singers from all different backgrounds discussing some big, big issues with some great observations. We are looking now to take that to the next level and into which area.

      • Liz Strzepa

        Yes – I think a lot of the points you raise are common with the notion of striving for open-mindedness and an attitude of exploration of different cultures, histories, and (of course) music. One comment is that while I understand your thesis of approaching these areas with an attitude of (as you wrote) “humility and surrender” – I feel that these terms connote a somewhat negative tone. Rather, my experience within BCC has been to treat those ethnic and racial differences with respect and a sense of openness to exploration. Surrender means to give-in (in my mind) – and that is not really what I think we are after – we want to instill the excitement of learning and growing in areas that can enrich our lives on so many levels.

        • John Connolly

          Great point Liz! ‘Surrender’ certainly can have negative echo…and this hits upon another point of our forensic exploration here. It can mean ‘give in’ or it can mean ‘give up’ – for instance putting aside a preconceived notion- giving your mind over to new experiences whether it be knowledge or empathy. Allowing the fire to be lit. Surrender can demand a lot of trust. I hear your point about it maybe having a negative tone however. It comes from my own personal experience of going back to grad school after many years, which was eye-opening for me. It’s amazing how experiences creep in the back door and kind of mould you one way or the other. I’m talking just daily routines and the slow layered development of a comfort zone. I went back to grad school encased in this and the faculty kept at me to ‘surrender to the process.’

  • LC

    I am just trying to get caught up with the conversation. I must say, I enjoyed
    reading many people’s comments and ideas about what BCC is trying to do with
    their organization and what is recommended to possibly achieve it. Indeed, what BCC is attempting to do, is a challenging and highly admirable goal.
    To have participants socialize and live, both in and out of the
    organization, such that there are no barriers between people, as it relates to
    race, socio-economic class, and education. As someone said, it will take time, but I believe it’s possible to achieve given the “right formula”. Unfortunately,
    don’t have the formula. All I have is my opinion and my observations:

    BCC is a place where kids have a chance to become a leader. If not a huge role, perhaps a smaller role – but to take the lead somehow. Varying personalities as well as varying comfort levels dictate if it will actually happen for a person. It’s good to have opportunities for kids to show some leadership, to be able to make some decisions, and to be confident in what they are doing. Confidence is key to a multitude of things in
    life and being part of BCC and succeeding as a strong, diverse, and open-minded
    arts organization, brings pride and achievement for all participants of the organization.
    As a parent of a child in the organization, I can say that when I talk
    to new people about BCC, being able to relay the mission/goals of the
    organization, as well as letting people know how professional and how much our
    kids learn and what they are getting out of the program, is easy.
    Parents are perhaps the best recruiters of new participants because they can
    say what positive things have come out of their own child’s experience.

    I believe BCC’s challenge is to understand and take into consideration each
    person’s unique situation, to understand kids are raised differently, to
    understand that some need more help than others in getting to the same level
    playing field. I believe BCC already does this, by including as many children as they can, regardless of handicap –but based on their musical ability or potential ability to learn. BCC requires commitment and dedication, as well as a strong work ethic, which is a good thing for kids to learn and practice.

    I also think BCC has many talented kids who know they are talented and good for them! Making sure everyone has a chance to shine – depending on their comfort level, is something I believe BCC tries to get their singers to do.

    In general, I think people tend to gravitate toward people who are similar to
    them. Not always – but more so than not.
    If that’s sometimes true, then you’ve got a group of outgoing kids who
    hang together, a group of shy kids who hang together, or they may even group
    off by ethnicity. By ethnicity, you share a common upbringing possibly, you
    don’t have to explain why you are the way you are – because you know, and
    you’re taught by your parents what’s right or wrong – and that goes a long way.

    Kids at BCC see kids they might not typically see at school. Broadening their views and experiences is a good thing. But various socio-economic classes can cause issues too – as some are grouped by that as well. Well, in life – we’re all grouped somehow – and even though you know people of different backgrounds, there’s some invisible line
    that exists throughout. I’m not sure you can completely erase that line –
    because it’s not an easy thing to do. People gravitate to who they are
    comfortable with or who they might have something in common. They are also
    excluded depending on which potential clique you’re not a part of. Life is that
    way! Exclusion, sadly – still happens.
    You can’t just wish it away.

    Friends have the best chance of staying friends if they put effort into maintaining the friendship. They have to want to do that. Not everybody has the time and some folks don’t think it’s worththeir time, so they lose touch with people. If you have kids at BCC who have strong bonds with each other and they actually want to stay in touch, they will make the effort to stay friends.

    I believe in order for BCC to do more and to try to break down barriers, they will have to construct outside activities or other events where the participants are doing something together enjoyably. Conversation needs to occur between the participants, it needs to be something that all kids are part of, it needs to be some kind of bonding experience where they all have a great time and it’s a memorable event.
    For the older, more established choirs, the trips to neat places are probably a good example of that. I would assume the kids who go on those trips, share a special bond and connect more because they’ve just spent 2 weeks outside of their comfort zone and out of the country. If you’re able to do something like that, perhaps on a smaller scale, I wonder if that would help with breaking down bridges. For
    sure, you need the time, outside of just “work” or prepping for concerts, to
    get to know one another and often times, there might not be a lot of time for
    that.
    Some non arts organizations that seem to be working is the YMCA or the boys and girls club. Kids from various backgounds get together on a regular basis to do something they typically enjoy. Be it a sport, or swimming, or doing an after school program. These groups deal with varying socio-economic groups as well. The kids learn to deal with each other – and just like everywhere else in life, everyone needs to learn how to interact with others, in a positive and respectful manner. BCC can start things off but it’s the kids who ultimately determine the results. Everybody has to be on board, everybody has to not see or want barriers, everyone has to treat each other as an equal and there should be no differences – in a perfect world.

    Just an idea from someone who really doesn’t
    have the answer. Good luck though! You’re doing great BCC!

    • John Connolly

      Thanks Lisa for some great insights. You hit upon a point here of people naturally gravitating towards people who act like them/ look like them. We all race towards ‘belonging’…we want to be belong as fast as we can so we can contribute and flourish. To ‘belong’ we want to hit as many things in common as possible. We almost imprison ourselves in a comfort zone. So how to find that spark to want not to speed towards ‘belonging’….

      I think yes there are many smaller things that can be done to just get us not even thinking differently but just interacting with different people. Remember those days at school when we were asked to get into pairs to work on a project and you’d always want to choose your friend but your teacher would force you to work with someone new. Right there and then your self-reference criteria is all jumbled up. All of a sudden you have to relate to another person, plug into their set of experiences and use it to work together successfully.

      Chorus is a great thing because of it’s amazing structural construct. Because of that you get a tremendous force where the group is greater than the sum of the individual parts. But with structure, there must be malleability within. We must push ourselves to allow diverse interactions to occur and flourish. With that comes greater individual empathy. You interact someone who comes from different backgrounds to you, you broaden your awareness and outlook.

      So the smaller things: yes having people from diverse backgrounds engage in conversations on a regular basis, especially conversations that are challenging and relevant. Then to balance that out with partaking in activities that are fun. I was in an immigration advocates program once where we all had a lot of intense, sometimes feisty discussions about different multi-cultural issues. They were emotional and hard-hitting but an important element was the social element afterwards. There was a framework where we would all socialize together afterwards and decompress together. It closed out the circle somewhat. It was important to laugh and mellow out at the end of it all. At the end of the day is to feel relaxed around each other.

  • Daniel

    I love BCC. In my years of observing the young people as they grow in their musical skills and their solid relationships with each other I have found that they don’t need any special training when it comes to race, culture, etc…

    Their parents, on the other hand, may have something to learn. Engaging the broader BCC families may have a larger impact on racial harmony. The “kids” just do their thing and do it well and develop their own colorblind view through their BCC experience.