"...my Macbook sat open on his desk with a sparsely scribbled notepad to the right of it."

"...my Macbook sat open on his desk with a sparsely scribbled notepad to the right of it."

It all started during my annual evaluation. 

At least my part of the story did.

I wish I could tell you how it all began ... but that's for another blog post.

As I said: for me, it all started several months ago in my boss' office. 

I happened to be sitting for my annual evaluation; my Macbook sat open on his desk with a sparsely scribbled notepad to the right of it. 

 

"Fortunately, my sound was off, and no one was wiser to this pleasant surprise from my college choir director."

"Fortunately, my sound was off, and no one was wiser to this pleasant surprise from my college choir director."

~FACEBOOK NOTIFICATION!~

"Kevin Fenton has sent you a message!" 

These Facebook notifications are usually accompanied with some sort of chime or alert sound. But fortunately, my sound was off, and no one in the room was wiser to this pleasant surprise from my college choir director.

I first met Dr. Kevin Fenton my senior year in high school (I was a hardcore chorus nerd at the time) and during undergrad was fortunate enough to perform in University Singers, the choir which he conducts at Florida State University (when he's not traveling abroad with other choirs, teaching masterclasses across the country, or just being a kind and caring mentor to his students).

The Festival Singers of Florida. Kevin Fenton, conductor

The Festival Singers of Florida. Kevin Fenton, conductor

I might also add: it was in University Singers that I traveled to Europe for the first time, met some of my closest and dearest friends, performed quite honestly some of the loveliest pieces of choral music I had ever heard, and fell deeper in love with the woman I would later marry.

So yeah, Singers was one of the defining highlights of my college career at FSU. I can think of many more people who would say the same.

That aside, I had just received a message from Dr. Fenton, and I was eager to read it:

Hello Bud: Ken Wakia is the director of the Nairobi Chamber Chorus, and he is planning a singing event to take place during World Peace Day on September 21. He lives in Nairobi and has secured support from the Kenyan government to promote this important event.

"That's cool," I thought, a little unsure about why he was telling me of all people.

Another message came through.

Ken: Bud Simpson is a former member of FSU University Singers and he creates documentaries and promotional materials for FSU.

My stomach lurched a little.

Bud: Ken is looking for someone to create a film for the event. 

At this point, I wanted to stand up, fist pump the air and yell something very loud, but I remembered that I was still sitting in my boss' office ... BUT THIS WAS AMAZING NEWS! 

Another message popped onto my screen.

Ken was in the states this past Fall (2015) and spoke about the impact of music as a way to bring people together--his choir performed the piece 'Ukuthula' with choirs throughout the southern United States. During his time here, he created support and interest among U.S. choral conductors. He would like this to be a world-wide peace awareness project.

My heart was so light I thought that I could've easily floated out of my annual evaluation.

The Nairobi Chamber Chorus, Ken Wakia, conductor

The Nairobi Chamber Chorus, Ken Wakia, conductor

The Nairobi Chamber Chorus, Ken Wakia, conductor

The Nairobi Chamber Chorus, Ken Wakia, conductor

Although I was just given a very brief introduction to AVoice4Peace for the first time, I was completely sold at this point, and I knew that I HAD to make this project - this film - a reality. 

It's always a honor when someone commissions a documentary from me.

First and foremost, it's a privilege to tell someone's story. It's as if they approach me and ask, "Can you tell my story and help me share it with the world?" I look at every documentary as a responsibility to bring their story, their vision, to life. I also love the genre -  it's the most effective means for communicating an idea or concept, to introduce a compelling character, or to just tell a really, really good story.

When done well, documentaries (even the shorter ones) have the power to evoke something larger than the subject being presented; the film alone is something of immense value and beauty. Well-researched and compelling documentaries can act as a catalyst for social and political discourse, pushing governing bodies to enact legislation and can ultimately change lives.

But my favorite documentaries are the ones whose subjects are simple and unexpected: the composer who rallies his musicians behind a purpose, the owner of an Atlanta-based vintage vinyl shop and beauty salon, or a luthier's connection to his craft.

These are a few of my favs ...

I knew that whatever story the AV4P doc would take on, it needed to be simple, unexpected, and compelling. 

More info about the film and the Kickstarter coming up in the next few weeks. We've got a great post about the AV4P documentary that you won't want to miss! Be sure to sign-up for project updates below.


A few days after that first conversation about the project, I was able to schedule a phone call with Ken Wakia, conductor of the Nairobi Chamber Chorus. From the beginning, I could tell that Ken and I would become very good friends.

Ken shared with me his vision for AVoice4Peace:

  • September 21 was established by the United Nations as the International Day of Peace (a.k.a World Peace Day). He and Dr. Fenton were planning to hold a peace concert on this day in Nairobi, Kenya. During which the choir would sing 'Ukuthula', a traditional African peace hymn.
  • They wanted a way for the entire world to participate in the peace concert, either by Skyping-in performers to join the choir live, by creating an online portal that featured user-submitted videos of 'Ukuthula', or a mix of the two.
  • Ken wanted to produce a film to document the legacy of the project and to premiere it at the concert in Nairobi.
"They wanted a way for the entire world to participate in the peace concert ..."

"They wanted a way for the entire world to participate in the peace concert ..."

From our initial conversation, I could tell that this project was near to Ken's heart, that world-peace was entirely worth pursuing, and that this project would be a success even if we reached just a few people.

"AVoice4Peace could not come at a better time," said Ken. "It's an opportunity for anyone, anywhere in the world to make their voice heard in support for peace. It's literally the only way one can vote for a peaceful world without physically marking a piece of paper." 

We aren't approaching this project with the goal of making AV4P famous or even a well-known organization within the choral education community. No, our success metric is simple: to make a little difference in the world. To help even one person change their attitudes towards promoting world peace. 

With that said, we want lots of people to hear AVoice4Peace. We want you and your friends to get excited about recording or joining a singing event in September. Contact us directly (info@avoice4peace.org) if you'd like to get more involved. It's early and your contributions will make a HUGE difference!

Here's what you can do RIGHT NOW to help:

  1. Sign up (below) to receive updates on project, if you haven't already.
  2. Share this post (and avoice4peace.org) like crazy with your friends and family. GET THE WORD OUT!
  3. If you attend a concert, recital, street performance, musical, or festival, tag your posts with #AVoice4Peace - Instagram posts will show up on our front page feed!
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