young people's FREEDOM CHOIR
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!
~Traditional African American Spiritual
I have traveled the world for the last 20 years working with choirs, community groups and schools performing and conducting workshops which focus on the history and significance of African American musical traditions particularly those that are centered around group singing. No tradition excels the Freedom Songs of the American Civil Rights Movement in merging social action with the raw power of the group voice. I dare say that it was one of the greatest singing movements that the world has ever seen.
The songs that grew out of the campaigns across the South in the early 1960s sprang from the rich culture of African American communities, the music of the black church, and the vibrancy, creativity, and courage of the heroic youth of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Guy and Candie Carawan, editors of the two volume series Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs, state that " the civil rights movement without it's music would have been like a bird without its wings." According to Bernice Reagon, a SNCC Freedom Singer and founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, "...this music is like holding a tool in your hand."
Join me in placing the vital and energizing tool of music in the hands, hearts and souls of young people once again as we launch the Young People's Freedom Choir (YPFC), a community supported grassroots music education movement. The initiative is an interactive exploration of the Freedom Song tradition born during the time of the American Civil Rights Movement, designed to educate, elevate, and assist young people in finding and lending their voice to the ever emerging story of humanity.
Through a combination of live performance and storytelling, the program examines the significance of Freedom Songs by recounting the historical development of these protest songs from field hollers, work songs, Spirituals and slave songs. By weaving together a tapestry of recorded music, historical documentation, photographs, and performance of the original songs, I will relate the rich history of this music and its function in preserving history, educating generations, protesting injustice and healing the wounds of racism. The young people will:
- LEARN about the significant cultural history of African Americans, their contribution to American society, and their place on the world stage.
- DEVELOP skills in listening, group work, singing, and songwriting.
- EXPLORE such musical concepts as call and response, improvisation, movement and polyrhythmic expression and the historical context that gave rise to these musical devices.
- GROW to appreciate their individual and collective identity, thereby helping them to understand the importance of inclusion and equality for all.
- CONTRIBUTE to the continuation of the tradition by composing their own lyrics to a song they learned in the workshop thereby realizing the power of music to be a carrier of messages of social change.
- ENGAGE in Revolutionary Music Making!
The ultimate goal of YPFC is to peak the interest of the youth in music as a tool for societal transformation.
YPFC is centered around SINGING, SERVICE, and SOCIAL CHANGE. These choirs meet at least once a week, work on a seasonal repertoire of songs which would culminate in a series of public concerts, and participate in a service project of their choosing.
YPFC will, through music and conversation shed light on the many issues that concern all young people like bullying, inclusion, equality, self esteem, and other pertinent social issues in much of the ways of the Freedom Singers of the past, thereby carrying forward the long tradition of singing for freedom.
The aim is for these choirs to draw from many schools and offer opportunities for the singers to make new friends and learn more about themselves and others through the powerful medium of music. The fundamental goal underlying this effort would be to present to Nashville, the nation, and the world a glorious vision of it’s future through the eyes of it’s Youth.