By Quinton R. Arthur
Music can be viewed as a creative and aesthetic experience or as a form of entertainment, but it can also be viewed as a means of social change. The university invited Boston University music professor Andre De Quadros to present his lecture on music and social justice. The lecture, “Saving the World through Music- Really?” was part of the Performing Social Justice Residency by the Chicago College of Performing Arts.
De Quadros has completed research projects in over forty countries, and is the Music Director and Conductor of Manado State University’s choir, which is known internationally.
The presentation began with four photos which reflected a range of social justice issues such poverty, racism, imprisonment and conflict in other countries. De Quadros then explain what music is and its role in giving empowerment to “forgotten” people, or individuals whom society often ignores or fail to mention.
Quadros cited one of his greatest service projects as working with the prison population. He volunteers in two prisons, where many of the residents are forgotten.
“Earlier in the lecture, we spoke of forgotten people,” Quadros said. “While you may think of others in the forgotten realm, such as elderly, people of privilege often do not think about the prison population.”
De Quadros went on to say that music aides in discussions of social justice because many can relate to it.
In the article, “Teaching Social Justice in the Music Classroom,” Andrew S. Berman suggests that those who teach music encourage social justice discussions through song. As diverse viewpoints are common in social justice, one way to reflect this in music is by collaboration.
“An activity involving student compositions doesn’t require a topic,” Berman wrote in the article. “Kids will often write songs about social justice issues without prompts.”
De Quadros explained how music was used to help ease the tension in the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. The project focused on the goals of initiating collaboration among Arab and Jewish youth and leadership work with Arab and Israeli youth. The goal was to work with children and musical leaders, and provide conduits of discussion within refugee camps and community music school settings.
De Quadros closed his presentation leaving advice for the audience on how to utilize music as a tool for social justice.
An audience member asked if Quadros’ work would ultimately cure the problems facing social justice.
“As long as we can help foster change, that is an accomplishment,” De Quadros said.