Using Art and Culture to Effect Change

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David D’Or and David Eaton share a bow with the Evergreen Symphony Orchestra at the National Concert Hall in Taipei, Taiwan.

By David Eaton, Lecturer in Music and Culture, Barrytown College of UTS

“Only through Beauty’s morning-gate, dost thou penetrate the land of knowledge.”

 – Friedrich Schiller

david_eatonAs an advocate of art and culture, it has always been my view that the beauty aspect of the truth-beauty-goodness paradigm needs to be more fully understood and supported in any attempt to realize a better world. I’ve had many opportunities to use my talent for providential purposes, both within our community and with artists who are not members of our church, and at the heart of my creative endeavors has been my motivation to use my God-given abilities as a musician to promote the ideal of godliness and to cultivate a culture of peace.

Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), who as a young man possessed a passionate desire to study theology and become a minister, believed that one’s soul state (Seelenzustand) was edified through experiencing beauty. For Schiller, “aesthetic education” could be the basis for a moral society and help establish the freedom that political revolution conspicuously failed to achieve.

I recently returned from conducting two concerts with Israeli vocalist, David D’Or and the Evergreen Symphony Orchestra at the National Concert Hall in Taipei, Taiwan. The concert was produced by the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist organization founded in 1966 that boasts three million members and scores of chapters throughout the world. Tzu Chi (which means “relief and compassion”) is based in Taipei and has done an amazing amount of humanitarian work, including providing assistance in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the Japan tsunami and relief efforts in North Korea. The American chapter of the Tzu Chi Foundation received a national award for being the most outstanding volunteer organization in the U.S. in 2012, due primarily to their relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy.

In addition to running several schools, hospitals and free clinics in Taiwan, Tzu Chi has its own cable television network that broadcasts the news of their global relief efforts as well as programming original content that promotes 24/7 the ideals and vision of their organization. They clearly understand the importance of using mass media and art to get their message to a larger segment of the public

While in Taiwan, I was able to meet the Tzu Chi founder, Master Cheng Yen (a Buddhist nun, now 76) and several of the organization’s key leaders. They explained that music and art are important aspects of their outreach. Their belief in the spiritual power of music plays heavily into their philosophy — and their funding efforts. For the two concerts presented last month I arranged one of the Tzu Chi songs, Family, especially for this occasion.

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