The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Fifteen, Piazza Navona, Italy, Music – a Universal Language

The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Fifteen, Piazza Navona, Italy, Music – a Universal Language

Kendra Souther Update 1: Music – A Universal Language

Music is a language that anyone can understand. As a person who has always been involved in the arts, theater and choir specifically, the previous is a phrase that I’ve heard constantly but never fully understood until recently. This past May I had the opportunity to tour Italy with my college choir. At first I was apprehensive about visiting a country where English was not the first language. This wasn’t due to ignorance of another country that didn’t speak English but because of the repertoire my choir would be performing was all in English and I wasn’t sure if those attending our concerts would be able to appreciate our singing because they didn’t understand. I quickly realized that this was not the case.


At our first concert, the setting was a beautiful church on the Piazza Navona. The crowd was full of Italians who seemed eager to hear us sing. If I had to put an estimate as to how many gathered in attendance I would say that there were close to 150 people. Throughout the concert the audience’s faces were engaged as the choir told a story through music. Although I am sure that many had no idea what we were saying, no one person reflected this. After our set we received a standing ovation and were hailed with praises as we left. This set the stage for the rest of the tour. Throughout the other towns we went to, the appreciation of our music continued. There were many times I found myself tearing up while singing from the atmosphere that was created with the choir and the engagement of the audience.

Music is a language that anyone can understand. I have fully lived and seen this. I left Italy with a new appreciation for the arts and the impact that it can have on humanity. No matter what language one speaks, music is a force that moves past all barriers. It is experiences like the ones I had in Italy that give me hope for a better tomorrow.

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

10 responses to “The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Fifteen, Piazza Navona, Italy, Music – a Universal Language

  1. Mindy Aubin

    I loved this article and thought everything you said and described was great. I also believe that it doesn’t matter where you are from to appreciate music. I had a Colombian exchange student stay at my house a couple years ago and I thought the same thing at first. I thought she wouldn’t know any of the music I would listen to. When really, she listened to a lot of the same songs I did and I was really surprised! Overall, you can appreciate music no matter where you are from in the world.

  2. Jonia G

    This was a lovely article – thank you for sharing. It’s interesting how some things can be universal: music, emotions, etc. I’ve also always had a special interest in music and it’s been my emotional ‘rock’ since I was kid. For myself, I often listen to foreign music (e.g. K-pop, J-pop, Russian, etc.) and generally do not understand a majority but I can feel the meaning or follow the beat. However I believe I first realized that the sentiment of your article (in a different way) in middle school choir as we sang holiday songs in independent living/’retirement’ homes and had elders sing along with the cheerier ones, cry with the tunes that brought back memories, and connected generations simply through a song. Again, thank you for sharing.

  3. I loved your story about singing in the church in Italy and how welcoming and appreciative the people were. Music is a universal language. I often listen to music in languages other than English. I am especially fond on songs sung in Spanish. It is a beautiful language and even though I do not understand much of what is being said it speaks to my soul. Thanks for your story.

  4. Ashley Svihel

    I completely agree with what you are saying about music. It is a powerful things and your experiences showed, first hand, that is doesn’t matter what language is spoken the message still gets across to the audience. Very cool story thanks for sharing!

  5. Samantha Roettger

    Music is such a powerful tool for communication. Even if you cannot understand the lyrics, you can understand the story. I have also been to Italy and got to attend a musical gathering at a nearby hotel courtyard. Despite not understanding the lyrics, I could understand the music. I got to dance with old Italian men and women to Italian music. It was one of the best experiences from my trip.

  6. Mackenzie Sherrill

    This article brought me goose bumps as I read through it! Even as I was not there to experience the reaction of the people in the audience as your choir sang, I can vividly picture how the atmosphere must have felt like to someone who was there. It shows how much impact your music had on the people there as they continued to recognize the choir even days after.

  7. Morgan Young

    I was in band for six years during high school, so I have always understood music, technically and emotionally. I have songs on my iPod in German, Japanese, Chinese, Romanian, etc., and even though I don’t know what they’re saying, I feel the emotion from the music and the way the lyrics are sung. I can only imagine the emotion you felt when the large crowd gathered and appreciated your music, even though it wasn’t in their language. Great article!

  8. Eleni Birhane

    Very interesting, I have actually been to the Piazza Navona in Rome, even though I was a small child I remember all my experiences in Italy very fondly. It is country that appreciates the arts and its people are amazing. I understand what you mean about music as a language that all can understand. It is a beautiful thing to witness people of different languages and different backgrounds come together with the power of music.

  9. Jimmy Lovrien

    Very cool! I would agree that music is something that requires no literal translation. Especially when words are omitted and the song is purely instrumental, it’s something that many can enjoy without explanation. I’m trying to think of other things that might fall into a similar category. I think it is safe to say food and some forms of art also can be enjoyed universally.

  10. Lorenz Hoss

    I can totally relate to you. The connection between spectators and musicians at a concert is always incomparable. Every single performance creates a new atmosphere. Music has something special that can be understood by every listener in a particular way, no matter what language you speak.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.