Last month, AXP@Home, the online version of the Symphony’s acclaimed arts-X-press summer program, invited students to connect remotely to celebrate the holidays in song. They also enjoyed an in-depth discussion of the values of cultural tradition. This Holiday Diversity Celebration was the third workshop in the AXP@Home alumni workshop series.
Leslie Benjamin, choral music director at Savanna High School in Anaheim and arts-X-press vocal music instructor, led the workshop. He presented students with an array of traditional vocal songs and led group discussions about the importance of diversity. He stressed the value of recognizing the traditions associated with seasonal festivals and celebrations from different cultures.
From the Christian holiday season of Advent to the celebration of Diwali in Hinduism, students connected to various faiths and their respective traditions through an overarching theme of serving the less fortunate. Students sang traditional folk songs, “To Love is Good,” “Be a Candle of Hope” and “Shalom Chaverim,” all of which symbolize community and the need for hope in a time of hardship.
In these particular times of seclusion and uncertainty, students and counselors spoke about how becoming a “candle of hope” for others can encourage positivity both for ourselves and entire communities:
- Counselor Julia noted how we can “celebrate our differences and diversity to really make it become our true strength through times of adversity.”
- AXP alumna Brooke noted diversity as “an important as a way to include everyone while also understanding everyone’s culture. You can celebrate everyone as a whole and avoid people feeling unwelcome or unaccepted.”
Mr. Benjamin pointed out that focusing on the similarities among different faiths can be an important step towards fostering a culture of acceptance and optimism. He encouraged students to find joy through the shared characteristics of different faiths, especially through central practices that encourage a hospitable and inclusive lifestyle.
“Make sure that we bring hope to people; you not only bring joy to them, but you can also bring joy to yourself,” Leslie expressed to our group. “As you go out, shed some light – show people that you care by spreading positive emotions and peace. As we are separated and in different places, it’s a great way to bring and sustain a community.”
The focus on vocal music helped to communicate these timely ideas. Music continues to serve as a captivating approach for people of all ages, cultures and circumstances to unite through a universal artistic expression. In these pressing times, it becomes especially necessary to look beyond the lyrics and melody for the deeper cultural values that can connect us all.
The next workshop in the AXP@Home Alumni Workshop series—“New Beginnings”—will be a visual-arts-centered workshop taking place on Weds., Jan. 27, 2021.