A Berkshire nonprofit is working to bring communities together through music.
Tuesday night, Marisa Massery was in Pittsfield’s Lichenstein Center for the Arts preparing to sing.
“I love singing because it brings me joy. I love singing because it helps me lose myself in music, but also helps me find myself," she told WAMC. "Singing is a wonderful thing because you can do it by yourself, you can do it with other people. It can build relationships, it can build confidence, you can work on your emotional stuff that you’re going through.”
Massery works for Music In Common, a nonprofit that started in Sheffield, Massachusetts in 2005.
“I am the Western Mass hub coordinator," said Massery. "So, Music In Common has a few hubs, Western Mass being one, Atlanta, Georgia being another, and Los Angeles, California being the third. So I run the hub in Western Mass. It’s a pretty new position, so I’m trying to get some programming done on the ground. We just did a program here tied with Berkshire immigrant stories. That brought together American born youth and immigrant youth.”
The Tuesday night event began a monthly series of meet-ups in downtown Pittsfield.
“Music in Common has been around for quite a few years, but we wanted to do something continuous and to do something in the community for high school and college aged youth," Massery said. "And so this is the first of one that will happen every month, focused on some type of aspect of music. So today we’re focused on singing.”
“I think that no matter what you attend of Music In Common, you would see a diverse group of people co-creating something, either a live performance or writing a song together, creating a video together," said Todd Mack, the organization’s founder. “And really, the idea is, how can we tap into the power of music as a universal language to bring people together who might not normally come together on their own. And that may be communities in conflict, like the work we do in the Middle East with Israelis and Palestinians, or it may just be communities here in the states that don’t interact much: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. Black, White Hispanic. American born, refugee.”
While the group might work with communities, it was inspired by a single life.
“The history of the organization is that it started in response to the murder of Daniel Pearl,” said Mack.
Pearl was an American-Israeli journalist for The Wall Street Journal who was killed while on assignment in Pakistan in 2002. He got his start writing for the North Adams Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle. Mack – a musician, songwriter, and producer – was a friend of Pearl’s. Mack says he found inspiration in Pearl’s love of music to create Music In Common. This summer, Music In Common is launching a new concert series called Amplify that connects its groups around the world into one vast collaborative experience.
“We will have local high school and college age musicians performing songs written by their peers in other parts of the country and other parts of the world, really as a way to amplify the message in songs, and to connect the local community with other cultures globally,” said Mack.
The monthly meet-ups in Pittsfield are free, and according to Jen Glockner, Director of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development, a perfect expression of the Lichtenstein Center’s mission.
“Kitty Lichenstein donated the space to the city years ago with exactly that in mind – community arts center, bringing people in from everywhere of all walks of life to use this space, so Music In Common is a great example of Kitty’s original intention of what this space would be,” Glockner told WAMC.
The next Music In Common meet-up is set for June 26th at 5 p.m.