If Not Now, When?

Music has always brought people together in times of joy, sadness, and anger, and this was the notion that inspired If Not Now, When?, the open mic night on Friday, Nov. 2 at the College of Fine Arts Building.

The Tree of Life synagogue shooting will leave a lasting impact on the community of Pittsburgh. However, over the past week, the rawness of this tragedy has slowly decreased as the shock wears off. The hate and the anger that the event inspired has been replaced to a certain degree by a profound sadness, but also a hope for a better future in which this community will regain its strength once more and these acts of violence will eventually stop. It's what each song conveyed at the benefit open-mic night that took place. All forms of art were showcased, including instrumentalists, vocal pieces, spoken word, and poetry, but their messages were the same. This act of violence has only made this diverse community stronger and more unified and that we will not let hate divide us.

The event ran from 8:30 to 11 p.m. It was heartwarming to hear from not just students coming forth, but also professors, faculty, and anyone and everyone who had something to say and wished to express it. The event also collected donations for the Tree of Life synagogue. There was a steady stream of people in and out the doors, with people staying for at least one or two performances to show their support.

The Leonard Bernstein quote, "this will be our reply to violence, to make music more intensely, more beautifully, and more devotedly than ever," was used to describe the night. The quote was probably the most apt description. It's almost strange to think of how something so beautiful came out of something so tragic and violent, but it conveys the ultimate message that hate cannot be fought with hate. This concert wasn't just an expression of sorrow for those that lost their lives, but it was about how the anger that the tragedy raised amongst so many people never turned to bitter hate. Hate breeds hate, which breeds violence. The open-mic night didn't just leave people, didn't just leave me, feeling a deep ache for the acts of violence that continue to take place around the world, but also left us touched. Despite the fact that the number of violent acts that occur in this world only seem to increase in brutality, senselessness, and number day by day, people still, and will always, have hope that these acts of violence can be stopped by spreading a message of love and hope.

Each and every one of the artists seemed to bare their heart and soul in their performances in a way that was more moving than words can describe. The music was incredibly vulnerable; it takes an extremely gifted and brave group of artists to express such vulnerability in front of a huge crowd of people. Maybe it was because every performer played not to showcase their talent, but instead to convey emotion, but it made all the difference in the way each piece sounded. I was only planning to stay for a couple of performances, but I ended up staying for well over an hour. There was a sense of community in that hall that made it hard to leave once you entered, and the whole event radiated a sense of purity, despite the violence it was responding to. It leaves a powerful message that the whole community needed to hear: we will get through this together.