What I Found at Pearl Harbor

Kate GasiorowskiICC/IYC Alumna 1998-2006

Kate Gasiorowski was a member of the ICC from 1998 to 2006. During her time with the ICC, she went on a Kantorei tour to Hawaii for the Pacific Rim Choral Festival where the choir had the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor. Kate talks about how her experience with the choir has impacted her life BEYOND MEASURES!

During the tour, one of my friends in my family group was a Japanese American. While wandering around the monument, looking and taking everything in, I wandered over to one of the reflection pools near the USS Arizona. There, I found my friend sobbing with her head in her hands. I was struck by her emotional response to being there. She had nothing to do with the events of December 7, 1941, but she still felt the weight of the history and culture.

It didn’t take long for her to be surrounded by the arms of her friends, who wanted nothing more than to let her know that she is loved and that we embrace her no matter what the history was.

Wouldn’t it change the world if every child had the opportunity to experience something so powerful? I find myself thinking about that memory so often. It completely opened my eyes to the need to understand the perspective of others, to not alienate and place blame, but to listen and accept pain.

It is easy to say that this experience with the ICC helped influence my decision to pursue a master’s in public health. I knew that I liked working on difficult issues, the ones that have a stigma or make people uncomfortable to talk about. I believe gender-based violence falls into that category, so I was excited to accept my job at the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence after graduating. Since then, I’ve learned so much about the complex solutions that are needed to prevent violence. It’s frustrating, challenging work, but it’s also extremely rewarding – I go home exhausted every day, knowing that I’m giving it my all to try and make the world a safer, healthier, more respectful place for all people to live, work, and play.

Overall, I don’t think it’s common for people to make a connection between music and something like violence prevention. But by growing up in an organization like the ICC, I learned important lessons about diversity very early on, which has helped me grow in important public health areas like cultural humility and equity. I also think that participating in music helps young people learn about self-discipline, time management, and teamwork – all things that help in a variety of professions.

The ICC was my introduction to diversity as I learned about the world outside of my school, neighborhood, and community. ICC invited children of all colors, ethnicity, and religions to create music. I was introduced to languages, cultures, and religions different than my own, which helped nurture an early respect for difference. Respecting people for their differences, celebrating those differences, learning about them and finding the appropriate spaces of commonality are all things that ICC taught me through the years, and these are all things that help me in my career as I become more aware of different methods to prevent violence. Today, I am a better human being because of that early introduction to the inclusion and acceptance of other cultures.

Recently within my organization, we were talking about a campaign idea to help communicate all the different ways we can prevent violence. I mentioned ICC – an organization that teaches and celebrates a variety of cultures and gives young people the opportunity to travel and experience the bigger world, all while doing something they love: singing. The ICC has impacted my life greatly and has taught me to apply inclusion and acceptance in my practice and interaction with communities throughout Indiana. My experiences in the choir have inspired me to continue my work on violence prevention while spreading the knowledge that different is not scary or bad, but something to be celebrated and for us to respect.

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