Listening for Life

In the late 1980s, Donna Stoering showed up in our lives in Southern New Hampshire when my wife sang with Donna in the St. Elizabeth Seton church choir. Donna gave us one of those gifts that keeps on giving when she asked if she could sponsor us to a Cursillo Weekend.  Jamie and I had seen the incredible difference that Cursillo made in the lives of several of our friends so we readily agreed.

The Cursillo process has separate Men’s and Women’s weekends with the men usually attending the three day weekend first and then the women attending a weekend often scheduled within a month of the men’s weekend.  The NH Cursillos are usually held at the Sarto Center several rural miles outside of Manchester, NH.

Donna picked me up and dropped me off at the Sarto Center and then with a cheery goodbye left me in the midst of 30 men I didn’t know.  She made sure that I didn’t have a car so that I couldn’t leave the weekend if things got “tough.”  In retrospect, the weekend was one of those transformative events that change one’s world view and approach to life. During the weekend, I treated the experience more as an academic exercise and went into my cocoon of silent observer.

At the end of the weekend with great energy and emotion the larger Cursillo community came flooding into our meeting room singing the rooster song – De Colores.  Donna was one of the first Cursillistas in the room singing so vibrantly and she immediately came up and gave me one of her wonderful hugs. My bottled up emotions from the weekend came flowing out.

As we all calmed down, our wonderful “three amigos” guitar players started playing and singing “Here I am Lord” by Dan Schutte (hear the song played and sung by Dan Schutte).

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my peo-ple cry.
All who dwell in dark-ness now
My hand will save.

I who make the stars of night,
I will make their dark-ness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. It is I Lord.
I have heard you call-ing in the night.
I will go, Lord, where you lead me.
I will hold your peo-ple in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my peo-ple’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn a-way.

I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love a-lone.
I will speak my words to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. It is I Lord.
I have heard you call-ing in the night.
I will go, Lord, where you lead me.
I will hold your peo-ple in my heart.

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.

Fin-est bread I will pro-vide,
Till their hearts be sat-is-fied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. It is I Lord.
I have heard you call-ing in the night.
I will go, Lord, where you lead me.
I will hold your peo-ple in my heart.

When we hit the phrase “I will break their hearts of stone,” I looked up at Donna and thanked her for the gift of a new spiritual life.

It wasn’t that long after the Cursillo Weekend that we moved to Seattle.  No matter how much you want to stay in touch with special friends distance gets in the way.  We followed Donna’s career as a world class pianist and swapped periodic letters, but our physical world paths crossed precious few times until last Thursday night.  Donna and her current husband, Andy Anderson, stopped by on their way to a wedding in Mt Vernon, WA.  We had not met Andy, so we were delighted to get to know him.

Most of the evening was spent catching up on where our respective journeys had taken us and most especially learning about the journeys of our respective children. At the very end of the evening one of those “oh, by the way” synergistic moments popped out of the universe when Donna shared that she was in the process of fund raising for her Listen for Life for profit entity.  She was particularly excited about the Travels with Music project which is currently in DVD ROM form and will be released as a series of Apps in the fall.

I was excited about the depth and breadth of what Donna had done since founding her organization in 1998:

“At Listen for Life we envision a world where all music cultures are valued and appreciated as the channel for communication. We are dedicated to the service of music through a variety of international and local outreach projects, and by creating a global family of music performers, teachers, creators and listeners.

“Listen for Life is a global organization created for the preservation and advancement of musical culture by serving the needs of music, musicians and music listeners in every region of the world. Through our variety of outreach, education and media projects, we aim to create an international family of music listeners, in community with those who compose, teach, and perform all of the wonderfully diverse musical styles that can be heard on the planet.

“Listen for Life was founded in London, England, in 1998. It then grew eastwards around the globe to encompass volunteers or affiliate studios in many countries, and it recently established new development and administrative offices in Oakland, California, USA.

“One of our goals is to encourage musicians themselves and enable their growth, through workshops, master classes and international retreats. We also encourage them by offering new performance, recording and broadcasting opportunities to relatively unknown but deserving musicians throughout the world.

“To serve both the musicians and the music listeners, and therefore to help advance the cause of music itself around the globe, Listen for Life has developed into an international umbrella organization for a series of outreach projects, with each project happening in many different locations around the world.”

The Listen for Life website is full of sample videos from the project and interviews with musicians from around the world.

I couldn’t believe the timing.  My colleagues and I recently founded a company to produce an integrated media content authoring and sharing tool.  One of the forms of media that we were missing along with the associated expertise was music.  Here was over 400 hours of professionally produced music, and even better it came with associated videos, games and text.  Just the kind of content we are looking for to test the bounds of our tool and to help us do the user research on what “integrated media” really means.

I do love the synchronicity of the universe – “when the student is ready the professor will show up.”  I can’t wait to learn from Professor Stoering.

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