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How music can change lives and bring us closer together

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  • For the past three years, Marin Alsop has been organizing the opening concert for the Forum’s annual meetings.
  • She believes that music can change young lives.
  • It can also help bridge the divides that make the world such an unsafe place today.

In these turbulent and uncertain times, it is vital that we find ways to overcome separation and find our connecting points.

As humans, it is important for us to remember that our similarities far outweigh our differences. We all want a better world for our children; we all want less stress and more understanding in our lives; we all need beauty and comfort.

While I’m not naïve enough to believe that music and art can solve our world’s problems, I’ve seen tremendous positive change through musical collaborations and partnerships.

When I accepted the position of music director for the Baltimore Symphony in 2007, I was struck by the lack of diversity in our performing community. I wanted to open the doors to classical music to as wide an audience as possible, so I started an intensive after-school music program in West Baltimore called Orchkids.

We started in 2008 with 30 first graders; today we have more than 2,000 children playing musical instruments and experiencing the empowering impact of this creative learning experience: working with others; learn to listen; Express oneself; appear together; look after younger children; to feel seen and heard as important people and to see their future full of possibilities.

Marin Alsop with some of her students.

Image: Marin Alsop

The World Economic Forum has welcomed my work to promote diversity and inclusivity in music and has invited me several times to perform the opening concert at the Forum’s annual meetings. Before COVID-19 took hold, I was looking forward to doing the same this year.

The title I chose for this year’s opening concert – “Converging Waters” – was intended to capture this historic moment. I vividly remember visiting the Brazilian Amazon eight years ago and witnessing “encontro das aguas” – the meeting of the waters – the confluence of the dark Rio Negro with the pale, sandy Amazon (known in Brazil as the Solimões River designated). Brazil).

For six kilometers, the waters of the two rivers flow side by side without mixing, but eventually their differences dissolve and they become a much more powerful river. This is a powerful metaphor for our current world situation; it can remind us that we all matter and have a purpose.

Over the past three years of performing at the Forum’s annual meeting, I have addressed important issues such as gender equality, global connection and isolation, and sought to allow my music to connect us and give meaning and power to our struggle for justice to lend :

In 2019, as the first woman to lead large American, South American, British and Austrian orchestras, gender equality has a special meaning for me. In 2019, I invited an orchestra of women musicians to perform with me at the Forum’s annual meeting, which culminated in a performance of a new work by composer Anna Clyne – Restless Oceans – which showcases the voices and power of women.

In 2020, the focus was on the question of unity, tolerance and joy – in line with Beethoven’s personal philosophy. I was able to bring the Global Ode to Joy project to Davos, which features singers from all over the world in a reinterpretation of Beethoven’s legendary Ninth Symphony. This project was due to be presented with nine new lyrics across six continents when the pandemic hit. Instead, it grew into a worldwide online effort.

In 2021, when we were despondent over COVID-19 and feeling isolated and distant, we launched See Me, a global film project that brought together renowned artists, professional musicians and children from around the world to collectively explore our deep human being show connection.

My hope is that I can continue to use music as a vehicle for justice and humanity.

Written by

Marin Alsop, Chief Conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

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