Tuning into Global Harmony

Paris Priore-Kim

April 10, 2017

As young children, we are often introduced to diversity by way of global language in song. We learn the sounds of a language other than our own in association with musical tones, and before you know it, we are singing in a different tongue – learning to sing “Frères Jacques” would be the classic example. Earlier this semester, our students in the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood had a musical experience with children’s book author and songwriter John Farrell that not only introduced them to global languages, but also stretched notions of global learning in a variety of ways.

Standing before our 300 kindergartners and first-graders with a guitar slung over his shoulder, Mr. Farrell invited the children to repeat the words he was singing: bonjour, hola, namaste. The next phrase continued with: salaam, guten tag, konnichiwa. Each phrase closed with: "With a smile and hello, friendships begin. Hello, hello, my friend." (The joyful lilt of the song still dances in my head along with the bright voices of our littlest learners.) Greetings in countless other tongues (including Zulu and Kinyarwanda) ensued. All the while, Mr. Farrell wove in anecdotes of learning these greetings from folks all over the world. The beauty of the song lies in the close juxtaposition of diversity universality. While we communicate linguistically in tremendously different ways, our physical expressions of friendship are exceedingly similar.

Throughout the concert, Mr. Farrell expanded these themes of diversity and universality. He learned just a couple of days before his performance that a weaving project was taking place at Punahou. He gifted the Neighborhood with a song he had written about weaving just the night before. The message echoed in the refrain conjures the image of a loom: "Up and down, back and forth, east, west, south and north, threads becoming one." Further, it draws gracefully on the imagery to call for unity: "Let us be the weaver's hands and learn the weaver's way. Let us show we all are one as we work and play."

Mr. Farrell closed the session with a song called “Love Grows.” As the children sang the words, Mr. Farrell taught them to accompany their vocalization in American Sign Language. The children and faculty sang through the song several times in full voice while signing. As the group continued to sing and sign simultaneously, Mr. Farrell urged everyone to dampen their voices each time around until they were finally singing at a whisper. Finally, he asked everyone to be silent as they continued to sign. The song resounded powerfully as 600 plus hands were "singing" in ASL.

John Farrell's magic is that inclusion is not just part of his message, but it is built into the experience that he creates. As John Farrell navigates human diversity in his music with children, he also leads them to see that it is mediated by sameness – that friendships, family and "the air we breathe" matter to us all. The ability to build global competencies is rooted in the awareness that difference and diversity can be leveraged toward deeper relationships, and toward broader ways of knowing, doing and thinking. John Farrell’s music offered our little ones a glimpse at the world’s richness and complexity, and fostered the attitudes necessary to appreciate that richness and navigate that complexity.


  • 4/14/2017 9:43:40 PM

    It is a wonderful opportunity to experience the many cultures and languages that surround us. My daughter Brittany has truly learned though music and song with HYOC verbal songs in at least seven or eight languages plus American sign. Song is a gift that can be share with all people.

     – Susan Giangarra


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