Any time I have studied the history of art and music, composers and artists who used their art to react to social and political issues has given me cause to stop and reflect. I never felt the drive and impetus to bring such issues into my music: my music was music and my views on external issues were something different. This changed in December of 2016 when I sat down for a cup of coffee with my friend and fantastically talented poet David Yezzi. He and I had been musing on a collaboration that would reflect on the ideas of modern Americana. During our conversation, we continued to come back to the same shared thought. Through the 2016 elections in America, our society seemed to lurch outwards, with opposing political sides moving further apart from one another. David and I saw ourselves standing frustratedly in the middle, seeing both the pros and cons of either side and longing for everyone to see the middle ground; a mutually beneficial compromise that really could make American society a great place.
It is from this place that America Song was born. Through a beautiful text by David, this cantata strives to ask the question, “can’t we all find a place where we can live in harmony?” While Americans of all generations have their roots in countries from around the world, we all share in the vision of having a better future for ourselves, our children, and their children, too.
More than a century ago, scores of immigrants brought with them their rich culture from across Europe. The unknown created unrest for the established Americans at the time, but as we look back at our history, we see how those immigrants improved America in the long run, adding culture, beliefs, and style to the melting pot.
There is now a new generation of immigrants coming from other parts of the world. Once again, there is unknown and unrest. As a society, we need to have faith in the unknown and learn the lessons from the past, to have the confidence that different is not bad: different is just different. In the long run, we’re going to be okay.
America Song strives to communicate this message. It’s okay to recognize that Americans come from different places; that doesn’t make anyone a lesser person. Whether we look at old, historic disagreements, immigrants from coming from war-torn countries around the world, or the uncomfortable divides between gender, race, religion, or politics, we are all Americans, one and the same. Our kids all go to school here. We all can love America. We all can breathe free.