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The Transcendent Value of Beauty

The Transcendent Value of Beauty
Brett Harkey, Director of Advancement

Our family dog doesn’t howl at sirens. However, the moment our daughter Amelia goes to our family piano room and starts doing her vocal warm-up routine, our dog starts to howl. We joke she is singing along. As much as I’d love to think the dog recognizes beautiful melodies and is compelled to join in music creation, in reality, her behavior is likely just some sort of instinctive reaction to the high-pitched tones sung by our family soprano.

Animal behaviorists can see evidence many animals have ingrained reactions to various colors, shapes, and sounds found within their species. This makes sense insofar as it allows those animals to survive, thrive, and reproduce successfully. However, evidence points to the fact humans are the only species which moves beyond basic recognition of interesting colors, shapes, and sounds. Humans can recognize, appreciate, and give value to those things that are beautiful. A bear may wake up in the morning and look up at the sunrise, but to him, it’s only a part of his functional day: time to eat some more berries. Humans, on the other hand, look at a beautiful sunrise and are moved emotionally by the beauty of the natural world.

This is a hint at what we mean when we talk about beauty at Liberty Common School. We recognize humans are naturally drawn to beauty, and in turn, beauty calls us to transcend our everyday lives to acknowledge greatness beyond ourselves. Nonetheless, without a framework of understanding, we may not always be able to distinguish between the ugly and the beautiful. Thus, our curriculum introduces students to beautiful works of art and music. We help students grow in their ability to understand why a piece of music is beautiful. Analysis of form, melody and harmony, tension and release, rhythm, meter, and dynamics helps the student begin to understand why a work of beautiful music is universally praised. The same can be said of art. Students learn to recognize shape, color, texture, space, form, and movement to improve their aesthetic sense.

At Liberty Common School, the study of the fine arts is deeply enmeshed in our vision of a classical education. It is not extra-curricular or optional. It is crucial because humans are naturally aesthetic beings. We ascribe value to the beauty around us. Because of this, our parent-led Board of Directors recently codified a fine-arts requirement as mandatory for high-school graduation. Students at Liberty Common School should graduate not only able to analyze fine art, but also able to create beautiful music, art, drama, and dance.

This past Monday, the high-school and junior-high choral and instrumental ensembles performed at the year-end awards concert. The event was held in Griffin Concert Hall at CSU—a location made possible through a generous donation from one of our community members. For two hours, Griffin Concert Hall was awash with beautiful music created by our students. And because of the lovely acoustics and architectural design of the space, the audience was able to focus on the performances and bask in sublime sounds. The evening was also a chance for several students to be recognized with awards for their particularly notable hard work and talent as music makers.

At one point, when recognizing the graduating seniors, music instructor Mr. Lunn urged them to never stop making beautiful music, regardless of where they may journey in life. He asserted making beautiful music out of thin air is akin to a miracle. Why? Because it is the creation of beauty which can move us and allow us to transcend the everyday world around us.


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