The We Shall Overcome Project

In recent months, CMW teachers have been working with students on an experiment we’re calling the We Shall Overcome Project.

In this project, all of our student ensembles are learning an arrangement of We Shall Overcome (with parts designed for varying skill levels), and learning more about the history and meaning of the song. Since September, the students have all taking part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and have been starting to write their own verses based on things that they would like to overcome – in their schools, their neighborhoods, or in the world at large. One student-written verse reads: “We are all unique…we will be ourselves….bullying is not ok.”

The first performance of these new verses were performed at the January Performance Party at Calvary Baptist Church and were a great success. Now, we’ll continue to refine the ensemble performances, and also invite parents, Board members, and community members into the process. Stay tuned for information about ways to participate, including community sings. The culminating performance will be in late March, as part of the Emanuel Ax residency, and we’ll produce a video on the project this spring.

This experiment helps us explore our hypothesis that musical proficiency and community participation skills are mutually reinforcing. We hope that, through the We Shall Overcome Project, students, families, and teachers will work together to more deeply explore the meaning of music and the role it can have in supporting social change.

— Chloe Kline
Education Director