By Beth Jacoby
Actor, Teacher, and Writer/Lyricist
On May 15th in Chicago’s Millennium Park, 3,500 members of the Chicago Children’s Choir came together to perform a song about standing up to bullying, exclusion, and discrimination. The song was entitled “The Power of One” and I, along with composer Larry King, wrote it.
Certainly, we couldn’t help but be affected by the sheer scope of the performance. (The fact that Mayor Rahm Emanuel had requested the song be performed right after his speech didn’t hurt either!) But what was more affecting was the impact that the song had on the children who sang it, and the audience who heard it.
“It starts with one voice, that opens the gate…”
Before we actually wrote “The Power of One,” we asked ourselves a few simple questions: “What if we could create a song that could inspire kids to be ‘up-standers’ and not by-standers when encountering issues of discrimination, exclusion, or injustice?” And, “What if that song had multiple solo opportunities, so kids could see and hear how ONE voice really can make a difference?” So that’s what we set out to do.
What happened next was sort of our own version of “If you build it, they will come.” An ASL teacher created some beautiful sign language to accompany the song’s chorus. A group of students in the Chicago Children’s Choir agreed to make a “test market” recording for us. Studio musicians and engineers generously donated their time and talents. And somehow, it all came together.
While we knew we were on to something, I’m not sure any of us could have predicted the response we have received, and not only from kids, but from parents, too. Quite literally, it has “struck a chord.” In recent weeks, I’ve travelled to numerous school choirs in the Chicago area to teach the sign language that goes with the song. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve asked the following question: “How many of you have ever been bullied?” At least a third of the group always raised their hands. We talked about how it made them feel, and what we all could do to help each other. We could have spent each entire class talking!
“If we just make the choice, we can end all the hate…”
Though it may be painful at times, this is exactly what needs to happen! It’s only through dialogues like these, in our classrooms and homes, that we’ll be able put an end to a problem that is hurting all of us. The fact that our song has been able to play a role in this process is a testimony to the power that music has in our lives to be a catalyst for change. We extend our sincere thanks to all the kids, choir directors, and parents for their support and hard work. We are extremely grateful.