Face to Face
In 1988 “Don't Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin became the first a cappella song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Through the decades, the perky tune featuring poppy overdubbed vocals sung with a Jamaican accent became a cultural phenomenon, accompanying carefree montages in movies and inspiring whistling the world over. But the song that was an instant mood booster was only a glimpse into McFerrin's personal brand of bringing fun and enjoyment to all by way of a transformative musical experience.
Beyond his mainstream musical success, McFerrin was a proponent and teacher of circle singing, a communal performance method characterized by improvisation and collaboration. As singers take turns contributing to the ad-libbed songs with their different tones and styles, they create a fluid and spontaneous atmosphere where they feel empowered to create and inspired to connect.
Music is indivisible. The dualism of feeling and thinking must be resolved to a state of unity in which one thinks with the heart and feels with the brain.
As with other improvisational arts, each performer's contribution creates moments of connection that encourage listening, understanding, and responding. Each performer relies on the commitment of the other participants to the success of the exercise. The circle format also allows performers to see and hear the other singers, recognize their emotions as they arise, and replace their inherent sense of individualism with a spirit of unity.
Whether on stage, in an intimate circle, or in fellowship with friends, opportunities for uninhibited expression allow for connections to emerge and multiply. As an institution devoted to developing empowered and empowering leaders, Pepperdine must commit to nurturing a culture that promotes the value of individual dignity in the context of a unified group. Learning about one another, acknowledging each other's strengths, and advancing a collaborative attitude can bring about joy and healing to a community that desires deeper connections with one another.