Embracing diversity within our conservatory
by RALEY BEGGS
Second-year MM Guitar
Coming out of Thanksgiving this year, I’ve had the chance to consider all the things for which I am thankful. I’m very lucky, and have been given opportunities that most can only dream of. Although Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated exclusively by Americans, the internationality of NEC has given me a new perspective on this time of year as well as the world at large.
Leaving one’s country is an incredibly brave thing to do; I have the utmost respect and even jealousy for those who are living their lives abroad. Even though I have not left my home country, being surrounded by those who have at NEC has given me the sensitivity to the challenges of living abroad. NEC has exposed me to so much of the world by just attending school, and for that I am thankful.
Americans have a reputation for being naïve, especially in regards to the reality of other countries. Perhaps this comes as a result of shopping centers and restaurants appearing the same from sea to shining sea, a homogenous feel that stretches over a country the size of a continent. Though it may be convenient to order a hamburger in Boston and Los Angeles and expect the exact same lunch, it creates a nation scared senseless of something that stands out from the crowd. Embarrassingly, the first year I spent here I was surprised to find out that not everyone left town to visit family for Thanksgiving as I had grown so accustomed to. Similarly, I was surprised to discover holidays recognized by some of my peers that were not a part of my own calendar. I was unaware of my own international ignorance until my first semester here, and even though it was humiliating, I think now I’m a bit more aware of the customs of others. To students at NEC, differences in international customs are intuitive; it’s a non-issue. Unfortunately, outside the walls of the conservatory, unawareness of cultural diversity still persists.
Along with the end of the semester, the holidays are now upon us. This is the time of year that is recognized and celebrated the whole world over, each culture branding traditions to look forward to. Music, already the signature of the cultures themselves, often serves as the cornerstone on which these holiday traditions are built. Just hearing the music of holidays transports us vividly to them; it carries incredible power. Living abroad may displace you from immersion in the holiday traditions of home, but it will be a time in life you will always remember. Because in the end, we don’t remember the times we were comfortable, but instead the times we were not. The times we stepped out of our comfort zones and into a world we never knew existed. Later, we will call these moments of discomfort nostalgia.
So wherever you call home, transport us there. Whatever songs you sang in December as a child, sing them now with might. America suffers from a mild and childish ignorance to culture, and it’s our job as musicians to expose anyone unfamiliar with such cultures to their wonder and beauty. The diversity we have within ouf conservatory is truly one-of-a-kind, and through music we all have the power to share and experience it in the most potent of ways.