Last week, we had the pleasure of working alongside a wonderful organization- the Smithsonian Latino Center- for ¡Descubra! : an event celebrating the power and beauty of Latina artists past and present. When two alumni of our program, Madeline Danielle and Veronica Parks, took the stage to kick off the show (and killed it), it made us begin reflecting on the power of musical legacies- the ways in which music brings people together and, in doing so, impacts the lives of all those involved. Music creates communities, often across generations and cultures, and every artist is part of their own legacy.
In some ways, this seems like an obvious conclusion for a program that matches older, more established artists with “aspiring young artists,” but the truth is, we haven’t always looked at it that way. At times, we preferred to see our program as a means for young people to break free from the emphasis often placed on learning from the past- to push themselves to tell their own stories and explore their own ideas and voices.
What Madeline and Veronica’s performance reminded us is that all of this occurs within a larger context- that artists are always drawing on the influences of other artists or even family members (see the featured image above), alongside their own personal experiences. All of these things come together to shape the songs our students write- a process we are so grateful to be a part of. So when students get to perform their own original songs alongside those of their idols (see the photo below for our alumni’s rendition of Tamela Mann’s “Take Me To the King”), there is equal beauty in every moment of the performance. What we hope to do is encourage our students to see themselves as part of those legacies- to draw strength and power from them- but to always add their own unique contributions, and to recognize their own inherent strength and power as well.