Music as an Agent of Peace
“Politicians don’t bring people together. Artists do.” – Richard Daley, former mayor of Chicago
Like Richard Daley, I have a strong belief in the power of the arts. My passion for music has enabled me to be a more imaginative student, leader, and creator. More importantly, music has provided me with the opportunity to learn incredible amounts about other cultures and has given me a certain hope in humanity. During my time studying abroad in Egypt, I saw music bring people together like nothing else I had ever experienced. Cultural arts can inspire peace by acting as a common ground between two people, which facilitates initial conversation. Then, individuals can build upon that exchange to develop a better understanding of one another. Because cultural elements like music help define what it means to be human, the arts can lead to previously unseen connections between diverse individuals and groups. This connection and understanding is where peace must begin.
In a world where people can seem so different, the commonality of music, theatre, or visual art can be used as a gateway to create topics of discussion. I experienced this when I performed concerts last January in Egypt as a member of the Augustana Band. It is my observation that as humans, we often perceive differences before similarities, especially with people living on the other side of the globe. Because of our sometimes skewed views, we become reluctant to converse because of the potential uneasiness. In Egypt, the sharing of our music enabled us to strike up a conversation with local students because both cultures were emotionally moved by the art created. The audience members respected us because of our enthusiasm to share our music, and we respected them because of their graciousness and general interest in the concert we worked hard to prepare. We also received the opportunity to hear Egyptians perform, and seeing them artistically made me realize that these people have the same desire as we do to express ourselves. In exchanges that involve the arts, there are no differences of race or religion – people are just people. The arts gave us a reason to get to know each other as artists and people, not strangers or opposites.
After our art was shared and initial conversation created, we were able to see each other in an entirely new light. This proves to me that music and the arts can play a significant role in breaking down stereotypes we might have about other cultures. Once we discover acceptance of a group of people, we can begin a journey of true understanding – and the arts facilitate this process. Wars, conflicts, media, and prejudices present in the world today often dehumanize people of other backgrounds and beliefs. However, the arts help to remind us of our similarities and reveal that deep down, people have the same wishes for happiness, freedom, peace of mind, and creative expression. The arts bring out humanistic elements, and therefore, promote peace.
As a Nobel Peace Prize Scholar and arts-enthusiast, I would be interested in studying the effects of the arts, and lack-there-of, on society during war and peacetimes. The arts provide a national vision and the inspiration necessary to develop a better world. It would be beneficial to both the development of the arts and international relations to compare the roles that nations with different levels of cultural arts play in a global context. Within an individual society I question, ‘Is the strength of democracy and freedom measured by its nation’s commitment to the arts?’ ‘Are countries that place little value on the arts more apt to have violent, unjust, or war prone societies?’ Or on the contrary, ‘Are countries involved in war unable to make time for the arts?’
I believe the Nobel Peace Prize Scholarship would help me build upon my ideas of music and peace and help me put these thoughts into action both on campus and in my future career, along with provide me with a background in international politics, social issues, and environmental projects. As a Music major, I would develop an even greater appreciation for music because of its extraordinary cultural value. As a Business/Communications major, I would be better equipped to actively promote the idea of liberal arts and be able to effectively communicate why the arts are so essential to the betterment of society and promotion of peace. As more emphasis is placed on math and science, I want to have a voice in making sure the arts are not trampled or left behind, especially because of the proven positive effects music has. After my time as a Nobel Peace Prize Scholar, I would become a more practiced and devoted liberal arts student, with an enhanced global perspective and desire for justice.
Post graduation, it is my aspiration to have a career in the promotion of the arts, and more specifically, music. I want to share with others what I believe – music is much more than a form of entertainment. Whether listening to it or performing, music provides people with needed inspiration and hope; it keeps people in tune with their emotions and sensitive to the world around them. The universal language that is music has the potential to bring strangers together in common understanding. If I were to receive the opportunity to study in Norway, I will be able to better understand the effects of music on a society’s aptitude for peace and justness, and be an even more passionate advocator of the arts in my career.
Ultimately, I hope to use what I’ve learned to create acceptance of other cultures through cultural arts, including music. No matter where my career takes me, I want to combine passions of music, knowledge, and people to inspire others to better understand issues regarding peace and human rights. I have seen a great deal of social and economic unfairness both in America and abroad and I would like to use what I discover as a Nobel Peace Scholar to break harmful prejudices that lead to violence, hate, greed, and corruption. I also want to use my beliefs about the power of music to inspire others to share their art, and learn from the arts of other cultures. With optimism, I can use my experience as a Nobel Peace Prize Scholar to encourage individual conversations leading to individual growth, tolerance, and motivation to take action. If I am able to promote music more effectively, I will be more capable of spreading peace – which is what the Peace Scholarship was designed to do.