As part of the Somewhere Project at Carnegie Hall, I am working with a group of teenagers as they learn to create their own songs. The kids are from all over the city, and they travel to Carnegie's new education spaces once a week for a chance to meet and learn aspects of songwriting in a supportive environment. Fruits of their labors will be performed and recorded throughout the Spring.
I read the news, like everyone else, and I am dismayed at the current attitudes displayed towards immigrants. But in general, my own artistic work tends to take a more veiled or metaphorical stance. I have friends, like singer/songwriter Jean Rohe, who do create songs that go right to the heart of current issues. I admire her songs, and I try to get to her concerts when I can. But I was struck this week, when one of our young songwriters came in with a lyric that was like a postscript to a NY Times article:
No longer want to feel like an orphan of the world
With no place to offer me a home
Can I trust you to share the burdens I bear
When life is uncertain, tell me you care
This young writer put herself in the shoes of a Syrian refugee and wrote in her voice. Whatever happens with the development of the song (no melody or music yet, but she's working on it...), the very act of empathy suggests hope. Songs can do that - they can take you places you need to go right now.