#MLKConvocation @AugsburgCollege. Lovely! Thank you @JamarEsaw for fillin’ my spirit. And … wow, #AmaniWard is only 15! Lordy.
-Tweeted by community member Noreen Bulmann after the Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation
Music moves us. It makes us smile, dance, cry, remember. Like Augsburg alumnus Jamar Esaw ’05, whose choral ensemble, Triad:4Christ, performed at the College this past Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Auggies are sharing their musical gifts with their communities and the world.
Using music’s power to soother and inspire
In addition to regularly composing music for Twin Cities companies including Theater Latté Da, Stages Theater Company, and Wonderlust, Aaron Gabriel ’99 serves as resident composer for Interact Theater. Interact is a radically inclusive theater company that creates new musical theater for performers with and without disabilities, and Gabriel is committed to ensuring that each production is shaped by and for the performers. This winter, he took his expertise on the road—spending a month in Chiang Mai collaborating with Interact Thailand and the children it serves.
“We’ve created many new scenes and many new songs for The Love Show—a show about all the different ways we find love in life … We decided to write The Love Show because one of our performances falls on Valentine’s Day (a very popular holiday in Thailand). The songs and stories will all deal with different kinds of love: romantic love, love of friends and family, love of singing, love of disabilities, love of food.”
Thematically, the show resonates with nearly all audiences, but the cast and crew greatly anticipate one special attendee.
In July, the children will perform an excerpt of the show for Her Majesty the Princess of Thailand, who will be visiting the hospital that houses Interact Thailand for its grand opening, “so it’s important,” Gabriel said, “that the songs and scenes really showcase the stories and talents of these unique performers.”
Conie Borchardt ’98 founded Grace Notes hospice choir, a group that sings to people in hospice care at Twin Cities nursing homes, and co-created the Arts Responding to Foreclosure (ARF) project, which, she says, creates a community for people experiencing foreclosure—turning an isolating experience into a supportive one.
Music, Borchardt says, transforms us and changes us from the inside out. She has witnessed music’s power to unite and soothe—both performers and audiences—during times of financial challenge and even in a person’s final hours.
“We have been blessed with so many meaningful moments … We sang for a gentleman who seemed at peace, though his breathing was labored. We sang to him about journeys. Later we would find out that he completed his earthly journey about 24-hours later.
“And then there are the stories we could tell you about other second-hand listeners! … Some non-hospice residents spontaneously decide to join our band of singers on rounds to the amusement of the nursing staff. Oh, and the staff smiles we see. Some are coy and some are gratefully enlightened for the service we provide. It is like watching the sunrise change your mood!”
“There are times in life when I am absolutely certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that music, singing, movement, and dancing are how we heal ourselves,” said Nicole Warner ’01, an Augsburg College alumna whose major in music performance prepared her for life as an independent artist and professional ensemble singer.
In 2011, Warner had the opportunity to sing the Mozart Requiem in a United We Stand concert marking the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Opportunities like this one remind Warner why the joy she feels while singing is only a small part of the performance’s real impact. It’s the audience, she says, who are truly benefiting.
“Most of the time, I think of the beauty of the people sitting in front of me, and I wonder at their ability to take in the music, to restore their souls, to be filled by and to fill up with the music,” she explained. “Time gets lost, and we all get lost in the music together.”
Music and performance have played ever-present—yet evolving—roles in the life of Clarke Athman ’05, founder of Piano Music for Patriarchs and Matriarchs, since his childhood.
Athman, who studied political science and music at Augsburg College, established the Twin Cities-based nonprofit organization in 2013.
Although Piano Music for Patriarchs and Matriarchs, known as PM4PM, is a relatively new venture for Athman, the notion to start the company, he said, is something that he has been passionate about for much longer.
“Music had played second fiddle throughout my adolescence,” Athman said. “I was more interested in sports and athletics than anything else.” But, since then, priorities shifted for Athman. As the years after high school and college passed, Athman said he acquired a new appreciation for music, and—surprisingly—a calling.
“… recalling my younger days as an elementary music student, [I] found myself talking about the music my school would perform for rest homes in the local area,” Athman said. “I remembered the sheer joy and jubilation of the residents and thought to myself, ‘Why not bring the gift of music to folks right here in the Twin Cities?’”
As for the future of PM4PM, Athman is hopeful that his objective will catch on. He has been collaborating with Sarah Martin McConnell, director and founder of the Music for Seniors nonprofit based out of Nashville, Tennessee, in hopes to broaden the scope of his business from a few participating nursing homes to as many in the Twin Cities as possible.
“The opportunity [to work with McConnell] presented itself and gave me the chance to give something back to my community—something that I hadn’t realized I could enjoy so much,” Athman said.
While maintaining PM4PM, Athman also is a senior lead specialist for Web.com, a Florida-based Internet and website services company that caters to small businesses.
Quotation from Athman’s Music for Patriarchs and Matriarchs website, pm4pm.org.