This past December, I planned a combined choir concert around the theme of “Peace on Earth.” I have been increasingly concerned about the direction the world is headed and wanted to do something to make my corner of the world a better place to live. Sometimes things can seem so out of my control and it does not seem anything I do will make an impact on the world, so this concert and specifically the theme of the concert was my chance to have a voice and try to make a difference in a positive way. The music I chose for the concert gave me a voice but it also gave the students a voice. I knew I needed this concert and I was hoping it would be something others needed as well. I hoped it would be an evening that would lift my spirits and the spirits of others.
I direct four choirs in my district and my students are in grades 6-12. For the concert, each choir sang a set of three songs and one song in their choir’s set was about peace. The concert opened with a song entitled, “There is Peace,” by Jim Papoulis, which was sung by all the choirs. The song opened with the 6th grade choir singing the first couple of lines and grew from there to include all the choirs. I love how the song says peace is in my heart, my mind, and my soul and it comes from me. I think I learned more about peace through this song than I could have ever imagined. Peace is a concept I always imagined was something I have to find, but after thinking about it and talking with my students, I realized it is something I have inside of me.
During the week of the concert, I had all of my students answer the following questions. What is peace? Describe a time in your life when you were most at peace. And the final question was, what would need to happen in the world in order to have peace on earth? The answers were amazing and deeply moving! I immediately knew I had to incorporate their responses into the concert. So as one choir was exiting the risers and the next moved onto the risers, I had student volunteers read some of the responses. It kept the theme of peace going throughout the concert but most importantly let the audience know how the students actually felt about peace and about the world we live in today.
The student responses talked about the need to accept people no matter the color of their skin, no matter the God they worship, and no matter their sexuality. The students talked about feeling most at peace when they helped someone realize they mattered. They feel at peace when they spend time with family members and hear their laughter, and they feel at peace when they are quiet and take time to recognize the beauty around them. Their stories were heart-warming and really made the concert special. My concerts are always about my students, but during this concert, it truly was all about them, their singing and their thoughts about peace.
Not every note was perfect or every chord in tune, but it was the perfect example of what these future adults will be able to accomplish and what they hold most dear. It brings me such peace to know we are educating such intelligent and thoughtful young people. During days when things are not going well, I can always look back at my students’ responses about peace and know we are headed in the right direction. In a time when the news is often negative and bleak, it certainly lightens the load knowing the young people we teach grasp the problems of the world and want to be part of the solution. We really can make a difference!