The Soprano Speaks

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When award-winning legendary soprano Renée Fleming received the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Artistic Leadership Award this week, she told the audience that the creative community has a crucial role to play in international bridge building and fostering understanding of complex issues such as climate change, poverty and international health.

“It became clear to me some years ago that artists practice a powerful form of soft diplomacy in these moments,” she said. “And I’m gratified that the Atlantic Council recognizes the role that music and the arts can play in fostering international cooperation. And today, with the overwhelming amount of information we receive on a daily basis, messaging of important initiatives and ideas face an uphill battle.”

Fleming, who received the National Medal of the Arts in 2013, has worked over the years on both the international artistic and political stage, including supporting the Polyphony Foundation, an organization connecting young Arab and Jewish musicians in Israel. The power of music and song in political and social movements is well known, but lesser understood is the science behind how music affects the human brain and what role it can have in healing and fostering bonds. To that end, Fleming  recently collaborated with neuroscientists and other performers at the Kennedy Center to link neuroscience research with efforts to understand music’s effects on the mind.

“What science has discovered is that music triggers a chemical response in the brain that actually reduces feelings of isolation and increases a sense of social connection and trust,” she said. “If political alliances promote human relationships on a larger scale, please remember that the arts can strengthen those relationships.”

Watch a replay of the Distinguished Leadership Awards.