Julie Coucheron is an internationally acclaimed concert pianist. She was born in Oslo, Norway, and has lived in metro Atlanta for six years. She is artist-in-residence in piano at Kennesaw State University and artistic director of the Georgian Chamber Players. (Photo by Andrew Bogard)
One of the people I admire the most in this world is Martin Luther King Jr. Whenever I think of injustice and hatred, his “I Have a Dream” speech resonates in my head. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” These words are spoken by a true leader and are something I believe every person should live up to.
I grew up near Oslo, Norway, in a small town in the ’80s and ’90s. My family is small but extremely close and supportive. I grew up performing with my brother David [a violinist], with whom I still perform often. I was picked on at school when I was a kid because I was different. Playing piano was not considered “cool.” I took refuge in music, books and literature, and I especially loved my history classes. When I read King’s “I Have a Dream” speech for the first time, it sent chills down my spine.
At the time I was puzzled by some of the contents, as I did not quite understand why anyone would be judged by the color of their skin. To me, that did not even make sense and to this day, it does not. But I did identify with the fact that no one should ever be judged by anything but the content of their character. As I got older and saw diversity with my own eyes, I understood his speech more and more.
Music is something I have always turned to when things are tough. Leonard Bernstein said, “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” Music heals and music speaks without words. We are all created equal. It is up to us to see this through and, to end with another King quote, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
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