February 25, 2022

A Bridge Connecting Two Americas

– WRITTEN by Eduardo Mendonça, Music Director

In January 2018, I stayed in a cabin at Fort Worden State Park, Washington, a place famous as the setting for the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman. I was there to compose musical arrangements as part of my residency at Centrum, a nonprofit organization promoting creative arts experiences. A grand piano, my guitar and a pencil and paper were my only companions. While outside my window rain fell and deer gathered, I worked to create arrangements for “Building Bridges Not Walls, the theme song for iBuildBridges concerts.

For those who know me the word “bridges” has always been part of my vocabulary, especially as the word applies to music, art, and education. I have long been committed to encouraging young people to express themselves and grow creatively through music and connecting experiences, and have worked to achieve this in my native Brazil, in the United States, and around the world.

A year and a half after my time at Fort Worden, on a summer day in 2019, young musicians from the iBuildBridges Foundation performed “iBuildBridges, Not Walls,” with me at the Crossroads Mall in Bellevue, Washington. I watched the audience, representing vast cultural diversity, learn to sing and join our chorus. Their faces shown with happiness and I believe, agreement with the message: in this world we should not have space for intolerance.

After I said goodbye to our young musicians my lovely wife arrived and showed me a Brazilian vinyl that she had just discovered in a bookstore in the Mall. The vinyl was a rare copy of “Brazil’s Brilliant João Gilberto” with songs historically worked and finished with Antonio Carlos Jobim. Reading the vinyl cover I learned that in 1960, Jobim had given birth to the ideas and arrangements that revolutionized Brazilian music. He had composed in a hut, on a rainy January day, in the mountains of Rio de Janeiro.

I left the mall appreciating how my composition and our iBuildBridges performance had connected everyone in the audience and I felt a new kinship with Jobim and João Gilberto. Three Brazilian composers had worked in isolation on rainy days to give birth to bridge-building music. Across a span of 58 years and in two different Americas our intentions were the same. Once again I experienced the power of music as a bridge between people, across time and worlds.

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