Today: Apr 14, 2024

Conductor connects music with conflict resolution

Jennifer Fengler, Staff Writer-
George Mathew, a leading force in classical music, came to Southern to present how symphonic music making can be a conflict resolution.

Mathew is a musician, a conductor, and a social advocate. For the past half a decade, he has organized and produced a number of benefit concerts at Carnegie Hall. One of them was for the victims of the great tsunami that devastated the coastlines of East Asia. Another was
to benefit the victims of Darfur in Sudan, as well as a concert to benefit children with AIDS.

Most recently, he did a concert called “Beethoven for the Indus Valley,” benefiting flood victims in Pakistan.

In addition, Mathew has done a series of “United Nations” development programs both in North Africa and Central America and is the founder of the non-profit foundation “Music For Life.”

“It seems there is a basic requirement for peace, whether it’s peace between two people or peace between two million people, and that requirement is listening,” said Mathew.

Mathew explained the most important part of playing in an orchestra is listening to others. Mathew said that in past orchestras, they were always “under the notion that the conductor makes the decisions.”

Mathew’s orchestra was created to question this and ask whether inspiration could be passed around so everyone is given the chance to be heard for their ideas.

“It did take a little bit of time, but the idea was that this is a place where the people in front are not running the show. The people in front are merely one part of the circle and that is something we are trying to create with our orchestra, and then have our members go out and infiltrate and infect the whole orchestra world and hopefully the rest of the world beyond that,” said Mathew.

“It could be the difference between real conflict and no conflict, because one of the things that we’ve found as musicians, especially in the business of where in time we locate ourselves, is the perspective,” said Mathew.

On New Year’s Eve, Mathew, Mark Kuss, and Mihai Marica were involved in a concert together in New York, organized by Mathew, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Kuss said Marica is “an amazing and talented cello player.”

Both performed a piece together at the George Mathew event here at Southern to help with Mathew’s presentation.

“It was remarkable to see our own faculty, Mark Kuss, along with Mihai of Southern alumnus perform together,” said Greg Crerar, director of development at Southern.

Kuss and Marica performed again after being asked for an encore.

“It was spectacular,” said a friend of Mathew’s, Irene Senedak. “It’s very engaging to listen to him speak. He really succeeds with drawing people to really gather and think about what he really has to say, but also gives feedback too.”

Mathew addressed reasons why students go to Southern, a liberal arts school, instead of being at an engineering school or a music school.

“The liberal arts education and the liberal arts life is what we all need in the world today, because people do not see from enough perspectives,” said Mathew.

Donna Jean Fredeen, the dean of liberal arts and sciences at Southern, said she was “thrilled to be able to hear him say how we should be living a liberal arts life.”

“I was very pleased,” said Fredeen. “I thought it was a very thought provoking presentation that I would’ve loved for more people to have heard.”

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