GLP Imagined Community Concert: ‘Let It Be’ Mantras

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GLP Imagined Community Concert: ‘Let It Be’ Mantras

Jenny O’Connor-Madsen (author), Rebecca Kim, Alfonso Hernandez, and Evangelos Saklaras, GLP ‘22 Cohort


Editor’s Note: The Global Leaders Program develops music for social impact leadership through an intensive year of learning that includes small working groups. One of the learning modules is on teaching artistry, and the culminating project for small groups is to apply what they’ve learned to design a music project for a particular program the group has been investigating for months. The assignment is to imagine and design an interactive community event that would deepen connections between the program and a community it wants to more fully engage with.

The projects were so imaginative that the Ensemble editors thought it would be interesting, even inspiring, for our readers to discover what these working groups have imagined. This is our third entry of the series, sharing an imagined community concert in the hope that the Global Leaders’ ideas can spark your own ideas for concerts that might deepen your program’s community connections. Our thanks to the Global Leaders teams and program leaders for sharing their visions of what’s possible.

I had the honor of working alongside colleagues Rebecca Kim, Alfonso Hernandez, and Evangelos Saklaras on a case study of My Voice Music (MVM) in Portland, Oregon. My Voice Music is a youth music program that empowers young people ages 9–24 to discover their musical voices, explore their creativity, and collaborate with their peers through songwriting, recording, performance, and leadership programs. The organization was founded by Ian Mouser; in our interviews with him last year, he described it as a “non-therapeutic intervention in a highly therapeutic environment.” Ian inspired our group in speaking about MVM—what had been achieved, the dedication of his team, and their plans for the future.

Tragically, Ian Mouser was killed on October 14, 2021 while cycling across the U.S. to raise money for MVM. Like so many, our GLP group was heartbroken. As those who worked with and knew Ian came together in mourning, we were struck by the strength and closeness of their community—a community that Ian worked so hard to grow.

Ian’s favorite song was The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” which he regularly played alongside MVM participants. In the wake of his passing, the song became a source of connective tissue for the MVM community. For Ian, “Let It Be” was a message of hope; we wondered what three-word mantras would resonate with MVM’s young people. We were inspired to create a performance plan based on teaching artistry principles that placed the idea of a three-word mantra at the heart of the creative process.

Over eight weeks of workshops, participants would share mantras that resonated with them—from “Let it be” to “Just keep swimming” to, simply, “LOL.” During that time, they would work with teaching artists to write music and lyrics around their mantras, eventually splitting into three youth groups whose final works would be showcased during a culminating performance.

We designed the final concert to be small, interactive, and open, giving students and audience members a platform to share their lived experiences. Twenty seats would be arranged in a semicircle; between each of the three performances, audience members would create share their own three-word mantras. By the end of the performance, the audience should have experienced a glimpse into the performers’ creative process while also exploring their own creative possibilities.

We designed our concert proposal to meet students where they were—providing a framework for the communication tools they already used. Beyond that, we hoped to honor the work and vision of Ian Mouser, and create a space where hope and togetherness could flourish.


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