Article by Tatiana Zamorano-Henriquez
The synthesis of arts and culture has the power to connect people and provide them with lessons and knowledge, which forms their stories, morals and values making art crucial in the process of cultivating culture, individual and collective growth as well as forging relationships. Art enables individuals to convey or transcend their hearts onto others and it is for this reason that art and culture are pivotal in the growth of our future generations as it allows individuals to find their stories through artistic outlets that create a new space to share our stories. Hence, nurturing culture through art is integral as not only does it have the ability to foster community but it also has the power to inspire and motivate individuals.
Together, art and culture connects human beings and it provides us with a sense of belonging and an identity. Culture reminds us where we are rooted; it is the spirit of everyone’s narrative as it encompasses our histories and our traditions. For these reasons, it is essential that we ignite this ember of art to kindle culture within the future generations. As Julie Andrews once said, “Decades’ worth of research attests to the fact that the arts are among the most profoundly important and valuable ways to improve learning and promote success, from early childhood through adulthood.”
The Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society, UBC Shine On Music and the Musqueam community hold true to the synthesis of arts and culture in the growth of the future generations: they collaborated to create The Beyond Music Initiative, a free after-school music program tailored for Musqueam youth. The program meets once a week at the Musqueam Community Centre, where on-site violin and song-writing workshops are offered to students in Grades 5-8, along with field trips, cultural learning activities, mentoring programs and community celebrations. The accessibility to this program ingrained in arts is central to the evolution and learning of future generations as it works to inspire and mould the youth of today whom will inspire and mould the youth of tomorrow.
As a mentor of the Beyond music program, I have witnessed firsthand the impact that art has made in the lives of our future generations; seeing them flourish into vibrant, innovative, determined and inspirational young individuals. The art of music has instilled culture, knowledge, courage, dedication, and compassion into each one of these students creating kindhearted, lifelong learners that have the talent to create profound change. Music in the lives of these students has made students believe in themselves: it has forged life long relationships where students have guided each other, and learnt from one another shaping who they are and who they will become. Beyond Music has provided students with a system of support that has sparked confidence in students and has taught them to embrace their uniqueness.
This in turn has inspired courage and bravery within them that has encouraged them to dream big and to comprehend that any endeavour is achievable through perseverance and heart. The Beyond Music journey has left an imprint in the lives of all students and has opened their hearts and minds to experience new cultures, to learn and teach the histories and traditions of their own culture and the importance and value of community and relationships.
Consequently, as much as Beyond Music has changed the lives of the students, it has also provided the mentors and teachers with learning opportunities where the students became our mentors and teachers and, through art, shared with us their childhood wisdom that, as adults, we often forget is within us. Their singing, songwriting, dancing, violin lessons, and other artistic activities allowed them to share pieces of themselves that embodied their unique knowledge, heritage, histories and their stories that bound us to one another through culture and artistic expression. The students opened their hearts to us and reminded us to value and appreciate the simple things in life that as adults we take for granted. They also reminded us to laugh, to respect, lead and support one another and most importantly, they reminded us to embrace our surroundings, who we are and whom we will become. We learned the importance of leadership and to value and cherish the profound moments and relationships that we forged, reciprocal relationships and familial bonds that have become life changing which is what makes the Beyond Music program unique.
As a mentor I have also observed and experienced the power of art and how it has empowered all members of Beyond Music to achieve greater self-awareness, strong communication skills, and critical thinking abilities — all of which have enabled individuals to shape and construct new understandings of cultures and the world around them. These skills bridged the gaps between cultures and has improved the daily lives of all those who had the opportunity to embrace the arts through this program. These are all learning lessons that Beyond Music has accomplished as a result of these organizations commitment to the arts, and why I believe that the most pivotal learning lesson of Beyond Music is the arts and understanding that art is a fundamental tool in the growing process of all individuals, which makes the arts indispensable to all of us, as it creates interconnected human beings and Beyond Music has proven this.
Beyond Music is fuelled by the arts and through innovative artistic methods all the participants of the program have formed life long relationships and acquired teachings and knowledge that will forever impact their lives positively as they grow. Beyond Music is an exemplary initiative that teaches us all “the arts are fundamental to our common humanity, …[every artistic venture we have or participate in]… feed[s] our souls, and invest[s] in…preserving our collective future” (Julie Andrews & Emma Hamilton) which underlines the benefits art, imparts on individuals and society as it is central in defining our personal and national identities. The Beyond Music Initiative creates a safe space for students to use art as a means to excel and mature without limitations, in a place where all artistic expression and cultural perspectives are welcome. It’s where art builds fulfilled individuals, creating good human beings, and shifts the dynamics of current humanity.
Although there were a multitude of learning lessons resulting from the Beyond Music program, the greatest learning lesson that can be taken from initiatives such as Beyond Music is the fundamental role that art plays in our society as it has the capacity to enhance the growth of our current and future generations. Julie Andrews said it best, stating, “When all about you is lying in the dust, it will be the arts that will remind you who you are and what matters because the arts are always there.” For this reason it is imperative that humanity comprehends that art must be embedded within our society as it has the ability to initiate collective and individual change.