Over the past 28 months I spent roughly half my time in Sydney and half in London. No matter where I was, I woke up every day to a partner who demonstrates the very power that has been transforming the world, and my world: the power to do tangible good through creative thinking. Her charitable organisation, Play for Progress working with unaccompanied minor refugees in London through the medium of music, inspires me. My infrequent opportunities to engage directly with PfP has left me revitalised and determined to find ways not to treat the news of the world as a distraction, but rather an opportunity to use my talents and interests—and those of the amazing artists and thinkers around me—to change that news, to try to create some better headlines.
In 2017 I was fortunate enough to work with Sinfonieorchester Basel on a long-running and ever-developing project that integrates young children from schools in economically-challenged suburbs of Basel into the performing arts. Many of these kids are also refugees or the offspring of those who were, who demonstrate on a daily basis the immense ever-remarkable and criminally underestimated ability of children to learn and absorb. Whilst struggling with a new culture, climate and surroundings, they are coming to grips with at least two new languages: German and music. More than 50 of these young children were sitting before me, flanked by professional players from the city’s leading symphonic ensemble. This stands as an exemplar of a sincere attempt by an organisation to do the right thing with the tools at their disposal. The professional players became mentors, and each showed enthusiasm for and belief in the initiative. Most importantly, the organisation and those responsible for guiding its interests demonstrated an indifference to current pedagogical thinking by creating a space in which learning and curiosity took the lead. Only in small pockets of the globe will such projects take place in a city’s premier performance space, be open to the general public, contain unabridged musical content (in this case, mostly Handel) in a resolute refusal to stoop even an inch and be presented by the children themselves in such a way as to use the students to educate the public.
We can all take a leaf from the book of these people: both the children and the people willing to work with them. We should, moving forward, challenge ourselves again to view art as a means for change. These moments challenge both ourselves and our society, time for reflecting on that which goes on around us. That our surroundings are increasingly uncomfortable cannot help but be clear in the art of today, and in the manner in which the art of yesterday is performed and interpreted. By all means, in 2018 and beyond, continue to enjoy your favourite works as incidents of relaxation and escapism. But allow yourself to explore discomfort, and pursue answers to questions you wish didn’t need to be asked. After all, what could be more exciting?