—by Dr. Laura Wilhelm, LauraWil Intercultural
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 11/8/17 – Have you ever wanted to set aside your own ego and be more than you ever dreamed? Then Varda Bar-Kar’s 2016 feature-length film BIG VOICE may inspire you!
BIG VOICE chronicles a year in the life of high school choir director Jeffe Huls and his most advanced ensemble. Huls compiles his dream team of 32 teenagers and instills them with his hard-driving passion for the choral arts and music literacy. He is the sort of tough as nails teacher you either love or loathe–but his exquisite results SING for themselves!
BIG VOICE interweaves multi-camera coverage of masterwork performances with interviews and slices of life to engage and entertain. It has won awards at the Heartland Film Festival, South Dakota Film Festival, and others.
BIG VOICE allows us to cheer for this motley crew of choristers as they blend into one “big voice” despite the many setbacks they face. The following online interview with director Varda Bar-Kar expands a bit upon this intriguing material.
1) I have to presume you relate completely to Jeffe Huls’ obsessive quest for artistry based upon your own track record! What balance do leaders like you two need to strike between excellence and empathy?
That is an interesting question and one I have never been asked before. I have nurtured within myself a sense of wonder and appreciation for “what is” outside of how I think they should be, and so I appreciate the beauty of my collaborators, their talents, and their creative processes.
I hold that sense of appreciation and wonder, and at the same time, I do strive to fully realize my vision and that may mean expecting more from others than they may have, at first, intended to give. But I have to say, that most of my collaborators are ultimately satisfied with my “high expectations” because they know I respect and appreciate them and they love the works of art that arise out of our combined effort.
2) Along those lines, what lessons might the performing arts have to teach us about life? What happens when performing arts programs are cut from public schools as they so often are?
The performing arts teach us about life via the many experiences and challenges that arise when creating a work of art. Some specific life lessons that almost always come up when striving to create art are: the value of persistence, of practice, of collaboration, of interconnectedness, of asking for support, of being willing to get uncomfortable.
Creating a work of art also provides us with a sense of wonder, of the splendidness of life, of the miracle of existence. And of course, there is nothing like that feeling that all our hard work has resulted in enriching the lives of those around us and of enriching the world. Collaborating on a work of art also offers the collaborators a sense of family, of interconnectivity or community.
When art programs are cut, all the wonderful riches that art education offers students, which I have listed above, disappear. When art education disappears, so does, what for many students is, a reason to go to school.
3) Why do you think most teenagers like music so much? What purpose(s) does music serve for them?
The students in BIG VOICE speak about this. Music awakens a mysterious part of them that they did not know existed. It serves to create community, a sense of family which the students really value.
When students perform together, they feel a sense of interconnectivity that they do not experience anywhere else in school. Music class provides students with a place where they can freely express their emotions. Creating music in community also provides students with a sense of purpose and meaning larger than themselves.
4) What personal experiences of music might have driven you towards making a lengthy documentary like BIG VOICE?
I LOVE music, and though I do not sing or play a musical instrument I have a deep appreciation for music. I was especially moved the first time I attended a Santa Monica High School Choir Performance directed by Jeffe Huls who is the choir director featured in BIG VOICE. I was transported, moved to tears. I wanted to know how Mr. Huls and his students achieved such artistry in the context of a public school.
5) Many feel that music has the highest potential of all the arts to break down barriers between people. Do you agree?
There is something so very universal about music! It touches all of us no matter what our backgrounds are, no matter what we believe.
It’s probably not a coincidence that when fascist governments want to oppress populations, they often outlaw music. Music awakens us, inspires us, connects us.
6) Are there any updates about the BIG VOICE promotion that you would like to share? How can your followers best support you?
BIG VOICE is currently on Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes. Please watch it!
PBS SoCal has invited us to broadcast a one-hour version of BIG VOICE in Southern California. They would also like to take it national, and for a national broadcast we need to find sponsors which we call underwriters.
Please donate to our PBS Broadcast campaign using the donate button at bigvoicemovie.com. And if you would like to sponsor our PBS Broadcast outright or if you know someone who would be a good sponsor candidate, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.