Tucked away on Fairfield Road in Brighton, Hillel Community Day School might seem an unlikely venue for a Martin Luther King Day event.
But yesterday–as advertised in the papers–HCDS opened its doors to the public for a unique presentation: Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches A Symphonic Poem Narration and Visual Adaptation, a 26 minute orchestral work accompanying the Doctor Seuss story, composed by renowned Spanish composer Lorenzo Palomo.
And, in the spirit of Dr. King (and Dr. Seuss), in the afternoon grades 3-6 visited the Brighton Food Cupboard, donating canned food and helping organize the shelves.At the event, I was greeted by the school’s Director of Institutional Advancement, Jenna Hiller. Jenna explained that HCDS chose to be open this year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for a day of service and other programming, including the symphonic poem.
The school felt the story of the Sneetches–prejudice and discrimination by one group of bird-like creatures towards another in which the Sneetches learn tolerance of one another’s differences–was an ideal teaching moment to honor Dr. King.
Afterwards, teachers led discussions about equality and inclusion as Geisel’s ever fresh parable helps to simplify what discrimination and intolerance looks like in an age appropriate way. Students also worked in class to create their own version of MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
As Jenna said, so powerful are the ideas that “The Sneetches” was considered for use as a tool for teaching tolerance in war torn Bosnia in 1998. I could see the power of those ideas–infused with Seussian magic–in the intent eyes of the students mesmerized for all 26 minutes.
No doubt the students visited the Brighton Food Cupboard with a better appreciation of the wrongness of casting unthinking and hurtful judgments–by imaginary birds or real people.Dr. Sidney Sobel of Rochester, an active supporter of HCSD along with his wife Barbara, originally commissioned Maestro Palomo, their longtime friend, to compose the work. Dr. Sobel’s hope is that musical events like this–entertaining both children and adults– can influencing behavior in ways that help eradicate intolerance, especially bullying and racism. As he says, “No language is more universal than music, no message more important than that of “The Sneetches.” Unfortunately, Dr. Sobel had to miss the laughter and the inspiration of the morning. In his place, Barbara read a touching letter addressing the audience in his absence.
See also on Martin Luther King Jr.