Pass It On! Scholars Award
2018: Sophia Bereaud
The PIO! Scholars Award is given each Fall to a high school senior, university or college student, selected by CMN’s Pass It On Project
Reviewers as the candidate most likely, throughout their lifetime, to continue celebrating the positive power of music in the lives of children AND
to recognize the importance of networking and sharing knowledge, music, ideas, and songs.
Sophia definitely fits the description perfectly. A Massachusetts native and Emory University sophomore, she has been singing in CMN Round Robins
since age ten. She was gifted the simple seed of singing by her parents, both of whom make music with children for their living and occasionally
do so in family band format. She chased the joy of music-making through community concerts with her family, through seven years in the Boston
Children’s Chorus, and in school choirs from fourth to thirteenth grade and counting. Sophia is pursuing a double major in Music and Linguistics.
Beginning next year she will serve as Vice President of Emory’s Concert Choir. She contributes to Georgia social justice efforts as an intern
at the Federal Defender Program, a public legal office representing GA death row inmates who cannot afford counsel, and as an ESL teacher for local
refugee populations through Emory’s Project SHINE. Though her professional path is still unfolding, she is inspired by the teachers and creators
around her—at CMN and beyond—to harness the power of music as a tool for social good.
Sophia's Sholarship Essay
“We at CMN share a fervent belief in the power of musical narrative. We gather in Round Robins to share the stories most poignant to us—stories
of friendship and courage, of history’s heroes, of the journeys of seeds and birds and magic pennies. In my years singing with CMN and in the
Boston Children’s Chorus, the practice of musical storytelling was accompanied by a persistent and powerful follow-up question—which
narratives do we share? Whose stories do we sing? If music is such a powerful medium for translating lived experience, can’t it be used to
elevate marginalized voices? The BCC brought together an ethnically diverse group of youth to sing through a repertoire drawn from all over the world.
Once we’d learned the translation of our Mexican Christmas song Abreme La Puerta and talked through the original coded messages in
the spiritual Wade in the Water, those traditions were no longer ‘foreign’ or ‘unknown’—we had developed
cultural and historical competency through song. I discovered that with music as a common denominator, children can come to understand and appreciate
narratives that don’t exist in their own homes.
“Heading into my college years and beyond, I have accepted the responsibility that offers itself to those who follow this belief to its actionable
conclusion—the promise to use music as a tool for social equity. I want to take the issues that are too ‘big’ or too
‘political’ for children and find a way to approach them with music, from a foundation of empathy and shared language. I believe we
wildly underestimate the level of nuance and maturity children develop to discuss unfamiliar topics, especially when such conversations take the
form of song. In performance with my father Philip Alexander, we’ve introduced audiences to Spanish language and food with simple song and
dance. I have seen how strophic narratives like Sally Rogers’ What Can One Little Person Do and revived Civil Rights-era anthems
like Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round can both engage children in historical discussion and empower them to carry on the
legacy of the heroes in their songs. I aim to do the same work around issues of marriage equality, gender identity, and environmental action.
I want to find and write songs that connect listeners to these concepts on the level of emotion rather than intellect, so children practice speaking
and singing from a place of empathy. While my professional musical interests are growing and changing, I know that in any subfield —be it
ethnomusicology, composition, or music therapy—I will be driven by the basic belief that music can and should work as a catalyst for social
change. I will use the common language of song to share stories of the ‘other’ because once children have sung a story, it isn’t
quite so ‘other’ to them anymore.”
— Sophia Bereaud