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  • Kevin Shorner-Johnson

Silk Road Explores Peacemaking @ E-town College

Updated: May 7, 2019

On April 11th, it was our pleasure to host The Silk Road at the Elizabethtown College Ware Lecture on Peacemaking. This powerful ensemble was conceived by Yo-Yo Ma in 1998 as a means of bringing people together and cultivating expressions that allow us to empathize with each other more deeply through the arts. Merging musical performances with a speech, artists explored the power of music as a process of peacemaking and feeling into difference.


Kevin Shorner-Johnson and Carly Egberts lead Silk Road in dialogue with the audience

Artists noted that Yo-Yo Ma conceived of the group in response “to a world increasingly marked by a fear of the other, of change, of the unknown.” Through music, artists have shared their experiences, expressions, and feelings with others, cultivating opportunities for deep, shared dialogue.


Jeffrey Beecher (bass), Maeve Gilchrist (Celtic harp), Shane Shanahan (co-artistic director and percussionist), Kaoru Watanabe (taiko and shinobue flutes), and San Deep Das (Tabla)

Partners in Health director, Ophelia Dahl quoted from Rebecca Solnit, “Hope . . . is the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand.” From this place of hope, Ms. Dahl articulated the importance of working from a belief that systemic change, compassionate curiosity, and humane care are possible. The humanitarian work of Partners in Health is embedded in the hope of humane care in Haiti and Sierra Leone.


Eduardo Braniff

The Silk Road also related their heartfelt experience of being in New Zealand during the recent Christ Church massacre in the community mosque. In the day following this tragedy, Silk Road artists wrestled with the meaning of music in the face of profound loss and grief. Eduardo Braniff commented that music can “draw people together in times when words and logic fail us, where emotion is all-consuming and overpowering, and to help us all grieve, process, and connect with the good in the world.” Music can be a part of the process of healing and reconciliation when terrors and traumas seem unimaginable.

"To be radical is to have deep roots in ourselves and long branches toward others." ~ Eduardo Braniff

The speech drew to a close by considering the notion of Yo-Yo Ma’s “edge effect.” Using an ecological metaphor, the edge effect explores the notion that some of the world’s greatest ecological diversity occurs at the edges of ecosystems, where two or more ecosystems meet. In a similar way, art and music may mediate and create an edge effect that cultivates "curiosity and beauty in the realm of diversity and difference." Eduardo Braniff stated, “in creating new music, forging new connections and revealing something before unknown [we push the edges of boundaries] . .. to be radical is to have deep roots in ourselves and long branches toward others.”


San Deep Das Performs on Tabla

An Elizabethtown College Student reflected, “I found it interesting that . . . everything has some sort of influence from something outside itself. This made me think of discussions in our Artistic Peacebuilding class about how everything is connected . . . The lecture was a perfect illustration of how art, specifically music, can bring people of all types together and form peaceful and positive relationships.”


Featured performers and speakers included Ophelia Dahl (Partners in Health), Eduardo Braniff (Executive director), Jeffrey Beecher (bass), Maeve Gilchrist (Celtic harp), Shane Shanahan (co-artistic director and percussionist), Kaoru Watanabe (taiko and shinobue flutes), and San Deep Das (Tabla). The group was hosted by Dr. Kevin Shorner-Johnson (director of the Master of Music Education focusing on peacebuilding) and Carly Egberts (Candidate in Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction in Peace Education).

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Dr. Kevin Shorner-Johnson

Music & Peacebuilding

Elizabethtown College

1 Alpha Dr.

Elizabethtown, PA 17022

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