Arts & Ideas Hosts a U.S. Naturalization Ceremony on the New Haven Green June 24

It was a privilege to be part of such a momentous day. Arts & Ideas Executive Director Mary Lou Aleskie welcomed everyone to the ceremony and celebration:

As a major festival of international performing arts and public humanities, it is central to our work to consider how we welcome people. Creating an atmosphere that celebrates differences and removes real and perceived barriers is fundamental to the success of this Festival. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is treated with dignity. And much like our country, our differences make us stronger.

President Barak Obama once said about the American people. “What binds us together is greater than what drives us apart.” And it is also true of the arts. So it seems fitting that alongside the 200 plus performances of music, dance, theater and talks from around the world, that this naturalization ceremony will contribute to our nation the culture and creativity of 19 distinctly different countries and traditions through the 26 of you, who enrich our state with your citizenship.

Much like in great music, the tension between tones become harmony. The shifting patterns of notes and rhythms keep our attention and unite us to the human rhythms deep within us. The blending of instruments into democratic ensembles bring together individual voices to create a symphonic narrative that moves us and helps us know the common elements we share regardless of culture, race, religion or identity.

This is the country we love. This is where we find welcome. This is where we call home.

Today we are fortunate to have with us a beautiful representation of exactly what I am talking about.

Echo Uganda is an ensemble of musicians celebrating musical traditions of East Africa. They are with us today to perform, and will begin their concert closing today’s ceremony by bringing us together to sing the National Anthem of the United States of America.

This group, founded by Gideon Ampriere, is a long time Festival favorite. Gideon is a Master’s level enthnomusicologist with a degree from Wesleyan University. In forming this band, Gideon set out to share knowledge, language and practices of the music of his homeland. Yet his efforts extend beyond the gorgeous acoustic arrangements of traditional folk songs performed using authentic strings, flutes and percussion. It seeks to build community by making music as they do in his native land, with no distinction between audience and performer. All are welcome. To perform. To dance. To tell stories.To be one in harmony and spirit.

So on this beautiful life changing day, for you and all of us who welcome you as new citizens, we wish you 'UBUNTU'…a South African idea that reminds us that we are all united in our common humanity. I am, because we are. Congratulations to all of you. Thank you for allowing us to host you on this important day.