I Heard the Angels SingNovember 24, 2010
At least that’s what I thought last week when I listened to Finnish artist Atheene Dodonpa sing songs from the medieval era. What was amazing about this? She was singing live onstage from Finland while I, in Maryland, sat in the audience listening. We were both attending a virtual AAUW event in Second Life, the AAUW International Festival of Women’s Music.
I asked the event organizer, Ellie Brewster (also known as Sharon Collingwood of the Ohio State University Department of Women’s Studies), why she decided to hold the event:
I chose this event because I wanted to make the point that Second Life (SL) is an international community — we had people participating from many countries. A music event is also a very social occasion, people relax and enjoy it, and it seemed appropriate just before Thanksgiving in America.
This concert is part of an AAUW Community Action Grant. The intention is to use a virtual world as a gathering place for people who would have great difficulty meeting [in] the actual world. I think it gave the women’s community a great deal of visibility — it was ranked very high in SL search, and we had many new people attend.
I first met Ellie at a women’s event when I was a raw “newbie” in SL. Her excitement and stories of using SL to reach out to the women’s community globally ultimately inspired me to convince AAUW to build an office in SL. Ellie tells some of her story in the Spring/Summer 2010 AAUW Outlook article “Creating New Learning Spaces in Social Media.”
Back to the concert, the artists ranged from Dodonpa from Finland, Haruno Watanabe showcasing Japanese traditional music, Cindy Ecksol singing examples of American roots music, and Izabela Jaworower of Poland ending the concert with a beautiful violin performance. To get a flavor of the concert, here is a YouTube snapshot. Listen to the whole clip, and you’ll get a great taste of the different women musicians.
If you have not experienced a virtual world such as Second Life, you will probably wonder what on earth it is and why “cartoons” are a “cutting edge” method of meeting others. What you may not realize is that every individual (and I think there were about 75 who attended throughout this event) represents a unique person whom you can meet, talk with, learn from, or even mentor. I chatted with several attendees and even got a potential new member — a woman from Texas who came to the event to meet other women with similar interests — and who, as our conversation continued, got excited to hear about an organization like AAUW and what we stand for and do. Sound familiar? I thought so.