Recently I started work as a freelance writer penning descriptions of travel destinations. One of my recent assignments was to write about Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. First, let me say that I am not sure I would ever be brave enough to travel to the DRC. And that makes the next part of this post all the more humbling and inspiring. While doing research for the short articles I had been assigned, I discovered the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra. This is the only orchestra in Central Africa and the only all-black orchestra in the world. You can read about their story here –
As I learned more about this incredible group of people, I started thinking about how music, and art in general, is so essential to us as human beings. Indeed, it MAKES us human beings. And that thinking led me to wonder why art and theater programs are the first things cut in schools when budgets become tight.
As far as I know, nobody remembers those athletes who took part in the ancient olympics. And MAYBE one or two gladiators are still mentioned today (I certainly can’t think of any names off the top of my head).
But I bet most high school students have at least HEARD of Plato or Socrates or Aristotle. And even people who don’t care for classical music have at least a nodding acquaintance with composers like Beethoven and Mozart. How about Michelangelo or Da Vinci (who inspired recent bestselling books)?
I do realize that I haven’t mentioned any women but that’s because well… women just have gotten the short end of the stick throughout history. But some more modern female artists I could name are Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Joni MItchell, Carly Simon, Mahalia Jackson, Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo. All of these people, men and women, have been remembered and beloved by multiple generations, some for centuries, even millenia.
And yet, we bankrupt our children of the very tools that will humanize them and make them reach for a better world. Why do we do this? In some cases, in some schools, it’s so football teams can have new away-game jerseys.
I don’t know about you, but arts, music, and theater should be the LAST things cut (excluding essential curriculum like math, science, language arts, and QUALITY teachers).
I wish the members of the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra every blessing as they try to bring humanity back to the Congo, one musical masterpiece at a time.