I don’t know how to start this post.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already heard about the attack at Manchester Arena. You know nineteen people are dead, fifty-plus are injured, Ariana Grande might be suspending her world tour, and the internet is in an uproar. You know everyone’s already speculating about who did it and why. Maybe you’ve ventured into the comments section of an article posted by a major newspaper or TV station and beheld the vitriol being hurled. I certainly have. And it sucks. It really, really sucks.
Because regardless of who did it and why, or what Ms. Grande’s going to do about the rest of her tour, there are countless teenage girls who will never see the world the same way. Some of them have injuries that will change their lives forever. Some will never go home again. The rest, though perhaps physically unharmed, will have what should have been a highlight of their year branded into their memory as one of the darkest moments they’ve experienced. And the rest of us sit behind our computers, perpetuating judgment and confusion and making assumptions about how individuals will react to a traumatic event based on the things they’ve said and done in previous un-extraordinary situations.
The thing that’s going to stay with me, though, is one of the pictures I saw in a major news outlet’s coverage of the aftermath. In it, two adults are escorting two girls away from the arena. The girls were both wearing nice dresses—the girly, lacy, fun kind that are perfect for formal-but-awesome events. Why do I care? Because those girls could have dressed in shorts and t-shirts or skirts and tour merch or whatever combination of comfortable everyday clothes they preferred, but instead they chose to display how important this concert was to them by wearing some of the nicest clothes they own. And that should be validated. Sure, plenty of musicians, classical and jazz and pop and otherwise, have opinions on Ms. Grande’s singing and stage presence and public image and literally every facet of her life, but at the end of the day, it is neither our responsibility nor our right to judge anyone (especially teenage girls!) for their listening choices, whether they keep Shostakovich on repeat, have a thing for Esperanza Spalding, or prefer the musical stylings of One Direction, Justin Bieber, and Ariana Grande.
So, musical community, tonight let’s take the opportunity to reach out with compassion. The Bataclan Theatre, Christina Grimmie’s murder, and now the explosion at Ariana Grande’s show point to a disturbing trend of attacking music venues to make a statement. Each time we step out onto a stage, we need to remember that each member of our audience has given us their most valuable gift by joining us on any given day. We need to be brave. But tonight, tomorrow, this week, we need to mourn. Just like those girls at that Ariana Grande show, we have an unending love for the music that reaches our ears. Let’s not forget it. ♦