School of Music piano students shone last night at a recital to raise funds to purchase 23 new Steinway pianos. Surrounded by friends of the university, and moved by the music of Piazzolla, Chopin and Albéniz, I couldn’t help but think of how the arts can, like nothing else can, bring a community together, create community in the deepest sense.
Over the weekend I read an interview with a Mason alumna who had moved from Northern Virginia to Charlottesville because she wanted to live in “an area with a strong sense of community”. Ouch! My perception of Fairfax and Northern Virginia is far more positive than hers. My family and I have been embraced by this community since we arrived last year and we have had the richest experiences we’ve had as a family in many ways. But our experience of community is clearly shaped by the fact that live at the heart of a thriving, dynamic university. The challenge remains as to how to create a true sense of community for everyone in a region that has grown so fast and has attracted so many people from around the Nation and the world so quickly.
A prosperous community is not just defined in economic terms, but in cultural terms. And as Dean Reeder put it, it is the intersection of arts and community that defines culture. In Northern Virginia, no one brings arts and community together better than Mason does. But we can and need to do much more.
Our vision states that we want to be an economic and cultural engine for this region. To be an economic engine will require additional investments in STEM education. But STEM alone won’t make us truly rich. STEAM will.
Thank you for helping us build a remarkable arts program at Mason. Thank you for helping build a true community in Northern Virginia.