Eastman School of Music students are considering issues beyond the practice room doors, outside the rehearsal hall and even across the world.
Last November, a group of Eastman students who were outraged by the prospect of a U.S.-led attack on Iraq decided to act. The result was the Eastman Community for Social Justice, a forum for discussion of current events and an activist group to encourage public dissent. Although the majority of the group’s activities focus on the impending war, other issues may be addressed.
Many group members feel that the war grows out of general societal ills and would also contribute to a variety of domestic problems.
“The war is an extension of already existing problems” such as the decline of democratic values and irresponsible use of globalization, senior violist and vocalist Heather Gardner said.
She added that, according to some sources, phone calls to senators opposing the war outnumbered those favoring the war by 1,000 to 1, but the Senate still passed the war resolution. To Gardner, this means the representatives in the U.S. government do not represent their constituents.
Sophomore violist Elaine Leisinger cited the potential costs for war as a possible drain on programs such as welfare and education, as the war would cost billions of dollars.
Both pointed out that the toll on the economy would devastate the arts, decreasing opportunities to play and listen to music. The effect on arts is one of the reasons why these students feel musicians should be involved in political issues.
The ECSJ has done a variety of things speaking out against the war. More than 20 students affiliated with the group went to Washington, D.C. to protest the war over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend and some members have attended protests in Rochester.
They have also set up a table in the Main Hall advertising the group and handing out information about the war issue.
Through weekly meetings, ECSJ provides an opportunity for students to share new information with one another.
Freshman euphonium major Christopher “Cody” Coyne said that the group helps him “feel more powerful in being able to cause change in the community.”
The Eastman-based group is also connected to the Rochester Campus Action Network through Gardner, who attends the monthly meetings. RCAN is an area-wide activist group which connects activists from universities, colleges and high schools in the area.
Should war break out, the ECSJ plans to hold a rally at Eastman beginning at 11 a.m. on the following day and join other protesters in a march that would begin at 4 p.m.
Eastman Community for Social Justice is also discussing the possibility of holding open lecture in order to clarify some of the issues. This may prove difficult because the group is not yet officially recognized nor does it have a budget. However, many group members feel that education is very important in changing attitudes toward war.
Many members also lament the use of propaganda in the media. “Propaganda cuts off dialogue on facts, [leading] straight to extreme emotions,” junior clarinetist Juliet Grabowski said. She emphasized the importance of understanding both sides of an issue before making a judgment.
Although the group agrees that the U.S. should not attack Iraq, members have differing reasons for keeping the peace. The vast majority are concerned first about the loss of innocent life on both sides of the war. Other concerns include future relationships with U.S. allies and adversaries, an increase in terrorist attacks and the high monetary costs of war.
The Eastman Community for Social Justice meets Thursday nights at 10:30 p.m. in the basement TV lounge of the Eastman Student Living Center, and is open to all students, faculty and staff. There are also meetings on Monday nights at the same time and place to discuss plans for the rally.
Caltvedt can be reached at email@example.com.