The 40th edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival kicks off on Friday (June 30) in Montreux, Switzerland, and will run for sixteen days. The event that has become one of the most prestigious music festivals will draw more than 200,000 spectators. More than 200 musical acts will perform on various stages with most of the headline acts playing in the Stravinsky, Miles Davis and Casino halls.
One of the many highlights of the festival is the competition featuring undiscovered musical talent. Dozens of young musicians from more than two dozen countries will perform for recognition and cash awards. It is kind of a global “American Idol” competition for jazz enthusiasts.
One American contestant who will perform is Jean Rohe. She intends on singing Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You.” In an article posted on an online website, Rohe wrote “that one of my strongest and most enjoyable methods of communication is music.”
It would be shameful and entirely disrespectful if spectators heckled Rohe during her performance. It would be a travesty to good public order if audience members tried to disrupt her performance by waving banners because she is an American or because they disagreed with U.S. foreign policy. It would be downright juvenile if a contestant who was to take the stage before Rohe would ridicule her musical selection or belittle her singing talents. Understandably, Rohe would be upset if this were to occur.
It is only too bad that Rohe did not practice the simple adolescent maturity and respect for others that she is likely expecting to experience while in Montreux. It was Jean Rohe who collaborated with students who heckled, booed, hissed and jeered, who waved banners and flyers, and who shouted at Senator John McCain when he spoke at The New School University commencement last month. Rohe was one of dozens of graduating seniors who wore orange armbands to protest McCain’s attendance at the ceremonies. As one of two graduates who delivered remarks immediately before McCain, Rohe “was about to make him look like an idiot,” she later wrote. McCain had already announced that he was going to deliver the same remarks at The New School he had previously given at two college commencements days earlier. Rohe attempted to ridicule McCain’s prepared speech in her remarks.
In her online posting, Rohe thanked those students who shouted at McCain during his remarks. She observed, “McCain was undoubtedly shouted-out and heckled by people who were not politely absorbing his words so as to consider them fully from every angle. But what did he expect?” And then in the height of irony Rohe justified such narrow-minded behavior by writing “precisely because we listen to the views of others, and because, as I said in my speech, we don’t fear them, that we as a school were able to mount such a thorough and intelligent opposition to his presence. Ignorant, close-minded people would not have been able to do what we did.” Hmm. “Ignorant, close-minded people would not have been able to” shout down someone offering a different viewpoint. One would be hard pressed to find a sliver of logic and commonsense in that position.
Rohe wrapped up her commencement remarks by offering, “We have nothing to fear from anyone on this living planet.” She is correct if she meant that a nation with a strong national defense bolstered by a vibrant, democratic society willing to listen to varying viewpoints has little to fear from external aggressors. However, that did not appear to be her position.
Her viewpoint is rather naive considering that the class of 2006 was the first to enter The New School University in Manhattan, virtually under what was once the shadow of the World Trade Center’s twin towers. The nearly three thousand who perished in the 9/11 attacks likely thought they had “nothing to fear from anyone on this living planet.” New York City and the rest of the nation painfully learned otherwise.
One may hope that years later Rohe will look back at her graduation actions and realize just how childish they were. Perhaps she will chalk them up to immaturity and the reality of living the sheltered life of a college student. Her online observation that she and her fellow students “chose to be in New York for our years of higher education for the very reason that we would be challenged to listen to opposing viewpoints each and every day” illustrate she has so very much to learn. The New School in Manhattan is one of the last places in America to look for a variety of political and cultural viewpoints.
Maybe after Rohe sings in Montreux the realization of her infantile actions of weeks earlier will hit her. And she’ll grow up. A lot. And if John McCain was at the festival it is likely that even if he did not enjoy her performance, he would neither heckle nor boo her and would probably join the audience in a round of applause.
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