The C4 Atlanta staff recently participated in Georgia Arts Day at the Capitol with Georgia Arts Network. As part of the day’s festivities, David DuBose, Director of Fine Arts for Gwinnett County Public Schools gave a stirring keynote speech in which he highlighted his personal connection with the arts.
Each of us in the Atlanta arts community has a unique and inspiring story about our relationship with arts and culture. We’d like to share our own personal accounts of what the arts means to us at C4 Atlanta:
I cannot remember a time where I didn’t connect to music. It has always been inherently a part of my DNA – a subconscious, coded message leaving an indelible mark upon my persona, even as a young child.
My mother tells stories of me singing into the air-conditioning vents in her car, using them as my microphone to sing along with Madonna, Michael Jackson, George Strait and many of the other 80s music icons that I heard while riding around with her. In grade school, when my teacher would play classical music to “make us smarter”, it was not uncommon for me to pick up a ruler and pretend to “play violin” when she walked out of the room. It was never a parody, but always an act of deep appreciation and longing to learn how to be able to “do that”.
I was fortunate that my elementary school also had an amazing children’s choir that had already been recognized at the state and national level. We also had a strings program, where I first learned to play viola. Since these programs where well known, they were also “cool” (very important to a precocious 9 year old), which spurred my initial inclination to join. Through these music programs, I found a place to connect with something bigger than myself and a talent which I could truly use to develop confidence within myself. As a shy, gangly kid with ADHD who was already taller than all of my teachers, I desperately needed not only to feel a sense of belonging but also to know that I was a part of something in which I could really excel. Through music, I was also able to access a part of myself previously unexplained with mere words alone and to translate that to other human beings in a way that was universally understandable.
I became enamored with classical music in particular, even shunning many other genres in order to concentrate myself on my music education. At fifteen, before I ever saw a production in person, I had already decided that I was ready to devote myself to pursuing a career in opera. When everyone else was listening to Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails, I was hunting down clips of Mozart opera arias on Amazon because my parents couldn’t afford to buy me every obscure opera recording that I coveted (YouTube didn’t exist yet). My Trent Reznor and Billy Corgan were Tatyana Troyanos, Anne Sophie von Otter and Jennifer Larmore, and I idolized these singers.
Simon Sinek would say that music speaks to my limbic brain, the part that controls emotion and reason and has no capacity for language. Music touched my soul in a way that I couldn’t explain, and I felt as if I was somehow connected to those in my ensembles, sharing the stage or in the audience by this invisible sound-to-soul thread. It was as if we were literally touching each other’s spiritual presence. It’s not just an audible frequency that I found pleasing, but also the physical sensation associated with sound – vibration. As a singer, I could literally FEEL art happening in my body. And as my technique improved, I could feel more of it, and much more intensely.
Now having moved into the realm of administrator, I feel it is my duty to protect this spiritual experience for other artists and for communities. This power inherent in art to connect us to each other is an undeniable and often underrated force. Though our tastes in art may be different, we all respond to that creative spirit, whether we consider ourselves a part of the creative class or not. Every person deserves the same experiences and resources to connect to something bigger than themselves that I had. It is my privilege to make sure it is maintained for all of us.