Last week, a group of about sixty teenagers found themselves in a new country. Understandably, some of them felt nervous and unsure of their surroundings. Many of them had difficulty expressing themselves in a language other than their own. One morning, they were asked to gather in a large room with people they had never met before. Despite the unfamiliarity of the situation, they were soon singing, dancing, and laughing together with new friends. This is the power of music to create community and build bridges of understanding.
Music Bridge is a community music training program in Northern Ireland. Last week, the Music Bridge trainees delivered a series of music workshops to a group of visiting students from Italy, as part of an English language immersion program. The trainees bravely put their skills to work with this group of teenagers, helping to bridge elements of the familiar and new through exploring language and culture in the process of writing a song together. The workshops were offered in collaboration with our friend, Eugene Skeef, who led the trainees and participants through vocal, movement and rhythmic improvisations that raised the level of group creativity to new heights. Our trainees also learned how music can be used as a tool for nonviolent communication, offering a contrast to many forms of violence that can arise in current and post conflict environments.
One young woman remarked how the music workshops helped her to express what was inside of her, which she felt was not easy to do under regular circumstances. The fact that she was able to tap into this source of confidence in the context of a completely unfamiliar situation is a testament to how music can help people to transcend barriers within themselves as well as in society at large. In the coming months, our trainees will integrate these approaches within their music workshops for local communities across Northern Ireland.