Art Now: Changing Lives With a Pennywhistle
It is not a novel idea for an artist to use her work to evoke change. Art has the power to speak when there are no words, cry when tears have stopped flowing, and shout when one voice isn’t loud enough.
But change doesn’t have to be loud.
Meet Liz Shropshire, a composer, educator and friend to thousands of children around the world. She left her musical career in Los Angeles to work in Kosovo, a territory in Southeastern Europe ravaged by war and bursting with refugees. Before leaving, she emptied her savings account and held fundraising events to obtain 140 harmonicas, 130 penny whistles, 50 pairs of drumsticks, 4 electric keyboards, 60 beginning piano books, 500 pencils, a portable stereo and a portable tape recorder.
She set up music programs in a primary school and a transit shelter camp for refugees. She taught the children the pennywhistle—a simple, lightweight whistle similar to a recorder—during these short-term music programs.
As the children began to learn this new skill, their confidence grew. They realized their future wasn’t doomed to a world of fighting and chaos. They could be more than child soldiers; they could be teachers and musicians and advocates of peace.
Today, many of the children educated in this program are trained as volunteers to keep the programs alive and working. The program is now known as the Shropshire Music Foundation and has bases in Kosovo, Uganda, Northern Ireland and Greece.
The point of teaching these refugees music is not to create world-renowned artists, but to instill a message of peace and stillness where before there was only turmoil and war.
This change didn’t need exceptional performances or speeches from big-name artists. It was done through the quiet resolve of one woman’s desire to make the world a better place.
Visit the Shropshire Music Foundation’s website at: http://www.shropshirefoundation.org!