People Need Music

9 min read
When I would close my eyes and imagine the experience of going to a ‘classical concert,’ passion, love, and fun are not terms that came to mind — let alone diversity, representation, and inclusivity. I often associated it with the same overwhelming boredom and vague adolescent embarrassment of my seventh-grade choir contest (that pimple-ridden, voice-cracking feeling of being in a concert hall linger still.) Needless to say, this sentiment is shared by many, be it an amateur holiday performance, a recorder recital for your kid, or an obligatory church production.

It wasn’t until I recently came across a Fairbanks Concert Association’s poster that I had to do a double take. The poster read:

THE SOUND OF (BLACK) MUSIC
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 10
2024, 7:30 PM HERING AUDITORIUM

Recognized as among the “Best of Theater, 2021” by the New York Times, “The Sound of (Black) Music” is a vibrant one-act concert reimagining of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical through a utopian, Afrofuturistic lens full of love. Cherished songs such as “Do-Re-Mi,” “Edelweiss” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” are recast through a Black roots music kaleidoscope of jazz, gospel, blues, soul, funk and Afro-beat.

The concert channels the singular musical gifts of some of today’s most talented Black musicians into an overflowing celebration of Black roots music. Vocalists Vuyo Sotashe, Brianna Thomas, Charenee Wade, Alexis Lombre and Zhanna Reed are supported by an electrifying band to bring to life the most joyous and loving presentation.

Before seeing this, I thought concerts were not much more than church choirs, row-seating, and a much-anticipated intermission. This advertisement sparked my curiosity — it was not geared towards the stereotypical concert-going audience. It wasn’t stuffy or pretentious; it didn’t represent the straight, white, upper-middle class. It was unexpected and exciting.

With this in mind, I decided to do some digging into what a concert is in the modern age. In the spirit of a true Fairbanksan – embracing change and challenging the normal – I delved in without the previous associated stereotypes (or youthful stage fright).

What started as digging has developed into a keen interest in the concept of music concerts as both a social and educational institution. Let me take you along on this journey so that maybe you too no longer have to dread scooching by and finding your seat in an auditorium.

What is a concert? What was a concert? “Concert” originally meant “togetherness.” Its focus was on bringing people, cultures, identities, and ideas together. In appreciation of gathering, concerts became an art form – a language – expressing what words alone cannot.

The concept of a concert began as a social institution for everyone, but as the bourgeois did, the concert evolved to reflect social elegance. They became prestigious and came at a high cost. Frankly, they became the evening activity of the upper class.

Around this time, the audiences began trending towards older and wealthier – becoming exclusive.

Centuries later – in the American effort to democratize the art form – came the rise of concert societies, inheritably reverting back to the core purpose of ‘togetherness.’ Concerts began to appear not only in parks and school auditoriums, but on radio and phonograph.

Orchestras, solo artists, and bands began traveling and the musical festival scene was born. Venues were no longer palaces and mansions, but anywhere that had the space and acoustics to accommodate.

The definition of togetherness broadened, not limited to physical spaces that are right around us, rather a portal to the world and the ability to explore different cultures and expressions. Today, concerts have used the art of language to amplify community, diversity, and inclusion. They now have a vigor to use this art form to celebrate the things that are different from what we know, together.

Why are concerts important? A study by WolfBrown identified the core four motivations for someone to attend a concert: captivation (being absorbed in the moment and achieving a state of “flow”), emotional resonance (an emotional response – whether it be positive or negative – to an issue, idea, or culture), aesthetic enrichment (exposing oneself to new or unfamiliar art, artists, or art styles), and social bridging and bonding (identifying the construction of and a sense of belonging to one’s community).

Simply put, concerts are important for the same reason we go to art museums, take cooking classes, or attend sporting events: these experiences are gentle nudges, reminding us of the simple joys that weave through our shared humanity. They are captivating, they are full of human emotion and connection, and they are a means of exploring the world not directly around us.

People need music. It is community building, it leaves you inspired, it’s meant for the escapist or the aspirational, it’s cathartic.

Tori Tragis


Why should that matter to me? From its beginning in the late forties, the Fairbanks Concert Association has paired its love and passion for the art with genuine love and respect for the varying fabrics that make up our community. Fairbanks is filled with a unique crossover of cultures, from a rich indigenous community to the gold-panning sourdoughs, to the military, and even the swell of tourists. Fairbanks has always been a perfect place to celebrate and educate oneself on the intricacies of different lifestyles – and one of the greatest ways to experience this is through the arts. Thanks to FCA, we can.

Tori Tragis, communications manager for FCA, put it simply yet profoundly.

“People need music. It is community building, it leaves you inspired, it’s meant for the escapist or the aspirational, it’s cathartic.”

Beyond that, FCA also provides the community with an opportunity to apply and further explore what they had experienced at the concert.

Tragis explains, “We specifically look for opportunities for artists to interact with the community. Most often that’s through district-wide school performances and through workshops or presentations with school music programs and classes. But we’ve also done things like a joint concert with the Fairbanks Community Jazz Band, small concerts in rural communities, or a private performance at the Pioneer Home for residents who aren’t able to go to the big FCA concert.”

Well, what now? Just as concerts reimagined and exonerated their once-exclusive roots, we have the opportunity to reframe what we know concerts to be. In the spirit of a true Fairbanksan and within the month of love, I challenge you to attend a concert (or if that still isn’t your jam—the improv show in May) with an open mindset and the knowledge you’ve acquired here.

Let’s cast aside stereotypes, attend concerts with the willingness to be moved, and revel in the beauty of unity through music – a powerful force that transcends boundaries and speaks to the heart of our collective existence.

Not to mention, you will be supporting a non-profit whose sole purpose, founded in love, is to create an opportunity for you to be a part of such an important cultural experience with our community.

Individual ticket prices include a $3 outlet fee per ticket. Youth, seniors, and military service members are eligible for a $5 discount on each ticket.

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Alyssa Petit

Alyssa Petit

Hey there! My name is Alyssa, and just a month after receiving my diploma at the University of Kansas with a degree in visual communications, I traded the flatlands for a life in the Last Frontier with my husband (no, there were no ruby slippers involved nor is my husband made of tin). As a Fairbanks transplant, I quickly embraced and became part of this extraordinary community. I’ve found the people here are a unique blend of resilience, inspiration, creativity, quirkiness, and above all, passion.

My life's passion is to create on purpose. I believe that language, in both its spoken and visual forms, intricately shapes human consciousness. My mission is to contribute to the crafting of a world where everyone feels safe, heard, and empowered. And where better to embark on this journey than in the state of beautiful extremes! Here's to creating a world for us all. Cheers!

P.S. I enjoy painting, I have caught some really cool fish, and I make perfect soft-yet-chewy bagels.

Alyssa Petit

Alyssa Petit

Hey there! My name is Alyssa, and just a month after receiving my diploma at the University of Kansas with a degree in visual communications, I traded the flatlands for a life in the Last Frontier with my husband (no, there were no ruby slippers involved nor is my husband made of tin). As a Fairbanks transplant, I quickly embraced and became part of this extraordinary community. I’ve found the people here are a unique blend of resilience, inspiration, creativity, quirkiness, and above all, passion.

My life's passion is to create on purpose. I believe that language, in both its spoken and visual forms, intricately shapes human consciousness. My mission is to contribute to the crafting of a world where everyone feels safe, heard, and empowered. And where better to embark on this journey than in the state of beautiful extremes! Here's to creating a world for us all. Cheers!

P.S. I enjoy painting, I have caught some really cool fish, and I make perfect soft-yet-chewy bagels.