Some of us will never know what it is like to be treated differently only because of the color of our skin, and we may even feel a certain inadequacy in any attempt to provide support and comfort to our Brothers who are struggling with what is happening in our society. The reality is this: our Brothers of color, and particularly those of the African American community, are scared and angry and sad and frustrated. If ever there was a time for the ideal of Brotherhood to manifest itself through our action, it is now.
For generations, Sinfonians have been a source of support to one another in the darkest of hours, and this is our time to continue that legacy. We must extend a fraternal grip to help raise our Brothers up in a time of despair. We must ask how we can help make a difference rather than tell others how they should be feeling. Together, we must follow through on actions that help to make the world a safer place so that we can all live in Harmony.
As Brothers, we learn that the ideal of Harmony is to be our weapon against Evil in this world. Just as in the dissonance and consonance of musical harmony, we will always have differences among our members–differences in opinions, philosophy, political affiliation, religious beliefs, and the like. But, in this, I fervently hope we can be united: we must actively denounce hatred, bigotry, and racism in all its forms, and we must consistently reject those who would promote these destructive viewpoints and beliefs.
More than one hundred and twenty-one years ago, our Founders met together, seeking to change an imperfect world through promotion of the concept of Universal Brotherhood. These were imperfect men who shared a vision, who saw music as an important and hopeful language through which they might change an imperfect world. The Object they developed reflects both their vision and their hope.
The “best and truest fraternal spirit” which is cited in the Object is not a simple urging of collegiate comradery, but rather a reference to the goal of Universal Brotherhood. Our Fraternity, at its core, is an ideal, and a set of values. The Object is nothing more than lifeless words until it becomes internalized in each of us, who give it life and meaning not through rote repetition of its words, but through our actions in response to its call.
The events of the past week have provided unmistakable evidence of a clear and present Evil, and for once, have evoked near universal condemnation. This is not the time for hollow “virtue signaling,” Brothers. The ills of our world cannot be resolved through speeches or posts on social media alone. Our words will soon be forgotten. What is needed now is action, and only through persistent and dedicated personal action can we truly change our world.
Brothers, we can no longer be complacent. Change must come. It is long overdue.
Some will say that this is not our fight. Let them say it. We cannot believe in the “best and truest fraternal spirit” and at the same time turn our backs on the clear demonstrations of racism, bigotry and hatred which infect our world. I call upon each Brother Sinfonian to breathe new life into our Brotherhood by taking up our Object with renewed intent and purpose, and by standing with, and for, our African American Brothers and all those who are marginalized. True Brotherhood is desperately needed, and our Object directs us to create and develop this same, true Brotherhood.
We are called to seek the best in others, and in ourselves. The “best and truest fraternal spirit” cannot exist in a world that casts judgment on the dignity, character, value or humanity of individuals based only on the color of their skin. Brotherhood is most effective, and most needed, when it is most difficult to express.
We must do all we can to summon the courage to speak out, even when it is uncomfortable, and to summon the fraternal patience to listen carefully and intently to the needs of our Brothers who suffer in fear, anger and despair. The problems we face together cannot be solved by pronouncement or petition. The solution requires consistent and persistent individual action to oppose racism and hatred. This can only occur as the combined result of countless small acts of decency and fraternity toward others by all Brothers.
I ask our collegiate Brothers today to reconsider the Object, to work hard to understand it, and to try to live your daily lives in accordance with it. I ask our alumni Brothers, no matter what your profession, to consider bringing our Sinfonian values to bear as you work in your community to support a more tolerant and fraternal society. Remember always that Music is our most powerful tool, a vehicle for communicating directly with the soul and the human spirit. If you are called to compose or perform, consider writing or making music that speaks to our common humanity and reinforces fraternal ideals. Now is the time for us to rededicate our efforts to work together as one united Brotherhood to create Harmony in our world.
Our beloved Sinfonia lives, and will be judged, only by the sum of our actions as individual Brothers dedicated to a common purpose. Each of us determines whether Sinfonia is real, meaningful, and effective – or whether it fails. To quote Brother Edwin Stringham, “Always remember that you are only one of many, yet a thousand eyes are upon you and will judge the whole Fraternity by your deeds, words and character.” This is the true meaning of the often misunderstood, and mistakenly maligned phrase, “I am Sinfonia.”
I ask each Brother today to hear our call, and join with me to work with steadfast courage to bring about the change in the world that we were founded to create. So let it be for the Sinfonia!
In Phi, Mu, Alpha,
Mark R. Lichtenberg
“The Object of this Fraternity shall be for the development of the best and truest fraternal spirit; the mutual welfare and brotherhood of musical students; the advancement of music in America and a loyalty to the Alma Mater.”