St. Thomas sophomore Matthew Farho traveled to San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico for seven days with the Common Ground Voices choir. The week-long choir tour in early March focused on peace on the Mexican-American border.
Farho is a major in vocal music education. He is President of the Summit Singers and Choral Assistant to Angela Broeker, Director of St. Thomas Choral Activities and Music Teacher.
âHe is an excellent student and an excellent musician. He is socially aware and committed to social justice issues and services, âBroeker said. “He is also committed to making the world a better place by helping people be more aware.”
Although the Common Grounds Voices Choir is not affiliated with St. Thomas, Farho heard about the group last November through Dr. Karen Howard, associate professor of music education at St. Thomas.
âI checked the website and then had an audition where I uploaded a video of me singing and had to answer five or six questions that helped support the intentions of the people who were trying, âFarho said.
The group consisted of around thirty people in total. Half came from the United States and the other half from Mexico. Farho was the only St. Thomas student on the trip.
âThe age range of the group was around 18 to 50. It was a very impressive group of people who have incredible careers in choral music,â said Farho.
The group’s mission is to reach out to the community through the use of music. The group sang a lot at the University of San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, but also learned a lot from each other.
âThe group started in 2016 in Israel and Palestine. This choir appears in places where there are border conflicts, âsaid Fahro. âThey just created this group on the US-Mexico border. ”
âWe did a lot of things that were unrelated to singing. We got very close to each other and established practices that we could all carry over into our daily lives afterwards, âsaid Farho.
One of the most memorable experiences of Farho’s trip was when the band sang to each other from different sides of the border.
âMost Mexicans were on the Mexican side of the border and most Americans were on the US side of the border. We sang some of the pieces we had been working on throughout the week and it was an intense experience, âsaid Farho.
Farho struggled to decide if the trip made such a big difference.
âA lot of us had a hard time with the idea, did that do anything? Does it create anything good in the world? Said Farho.
Farho realized that having conversations with people at home in our daily lives about this experience will be one of the biggest impacts.
âA good point that one of the Mexican band members said is that it’s a very American thing to believe that we have to do something all the time and that I have to be the one helping,â said Farho. âBut sometimes being the one to listen and try to understand people on a deeper level can make more of a difference than always trying to do something.
Farho wants people to learn and listen to his story and learn more about the situation at the border.
âTalking about the experience is where most of the impact is created,â Farho said.
Rae Beaner can be contacted at [email protected]