Today we celebrate the life of one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I have always been amazed by the life of Dr. King.
He was strong yet peaceful.
He was articulate yet concise.
He was charismatic yet thoughtful.
Dr. King possessed the characteristics of leadership of the noblest quality. Those characteristics shone brightly in one of the darkest eras of our country. 2018 marks the 55th anniversary of one of the most pivotal years in Dr. King’s life and in the Civil Rights movement - 1963.
1963 was an extremely tumultuous and eventful year:
The Beatles released their first full album, Please Please Me.
President Kennedy was assassinated.
Alcatraz was closed.
We lost the great composer Paul Hindemith.
For Dr. King, 1963 was pivotal. Early in the year, Dr. King lead several protests throughout the south. In April, while leading groups in the “Birmingham Campaign,” Dr. King was arrested and thrown into solitary confinement for 8 days for “violating the anti-protest injunction.”
What would have caused many men to re-consider their convictions and to question their paths only strengthened Dr. King’s resolve. During his imprisonment, Dr. King penned the famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
In his letter, Dr. King wrote:
"I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns: and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom far beyond my own hometown."
It wasn’t long after his letter was penned that Dr. King was asked to speak at the now famous March on Washington which drew upwards of 300,000 people to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to appeal to the government for equality.
At this pivotal event in the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King delivered the speech which has now become his legacy, I Have A Dream.
"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character".
Today we struggle to see strides we have made as a society. In an era where politicians and national news organizations like Fox and CNN call Americans to take sides and divide our country, it is difficult to see the how far we have come towards judging others “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
However, I challenge you to look in the band halls of schools across the United States. It is a beautiful thing to walk into these classrooms to see children of all races and all nationalities creating beautiful music together. They are blind to the colors in their classroom, yet they unite with one purpose and one goal: creating beautiful music.
Our society may not be ready to embrace Dr. King’s speech, however, I have hope for the future.
The songs we sing...
The music we perform…
The concerts we share…
…will make a difference tomorrow. I stand and applaud our band directors for carrying the torch of Dr. King into the classrooms of our school.
A NOTE FROM ME:
A few years ago, I wrote CIVIL RIGHTS: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And His Journey Through 1963 for the Mid-Atlantic Wind Symphony for a performance commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. The composition is written in 3 contrasting movements. For each movement, I use a different spiritual to portray the events on 1963. I invite you to take a look at this composition, and I would be honored to have you include it in your repertoire.