Empathy and creativity will save humanity

Stacy Brightman– Vice President, LA Opera Connects – Los Angeles, CA

Feature | Los Angeles, CA | 30 June 2021
Stacy Brightman believes that having a strong connection and working with her team at LA Opera Connects is integral in achieving the program’s mission of promoting community engagement and learning of opera with various audiences. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
Wandering down a long corridor deep within the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion you can hear a swirl of music, laughter and singing emanating from every room. As we enter one of the rehearsal studios, a group of performers around a piano are practicing for an upcoming performance.

At the centre of all this is Stacy Brightman.

“I'm always fascinated by the neuroscience of music. And I'm fascinated by the human physiology of music, and how our hearts and breathing all sync up.”

Stacy Brightman is the Vice President for LA Opera Connects, a division of the LA Opera, which focuses on community engagement and learning. This group strives to “create an opportunity for everyone from toddlers, families, the elderly and many more to be included and engage in opera.”

This vision speaks to Stacy belief that “engagement with art and beauty and culture is a fundamental human need. There's that place where art, beauty, creativity, and the highest levels of scientific inquiry are the same thing,” states Brightman, a strong advocate for the benefits and importance of opera music.

This sense of purpose is shared by the whole team. As they speak about what they do at LA Opera Connects there is a belief that together they are able to “throw open every door, every window, every possible way that we can share this with our community and be connected with our community. It's never just a one-way thing. It's really about what we're all receiving.”

Engagement with art, beauty, and culture according to Stacy, is a fundamental human need and can contribute to the overall health and well-being of an individual, something that fuels her passion for the work she does. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
This drive to be part of and inspire the community, and not just perform for them, is central to LA Opera Connects mission. Stacey provided an interesting insight by saying that a community “is a group of people who make something together. So whether you call it community or family, this is my tribe, these are my people because we're making something every day.”

For Stacy a good day at work includes the chance to “stand at the back of the room and see that wonderful magic, that transformation that we get to see all the time. There is that moment when everybody literally starts breathing together, and I mean, the audience and performers. And we're all connected. Whatever was dividing us has receded.”

Creating this deep connection as human beings, this confluence of emotions being shared between the artist and audience in that moment of performance is what Stacy sees as her main job.

“Ninety-eight percent of my job is trying to engage people. So that if they're an artist, they can do their very best work. And if it's an audience, I can take away any of the barriers so that I'm actually connecting an audience and an artist and blurring that line, blurring any divisions or walls between them.”

For Stacy there is no one right way to achieve this and it requires constant adaptation to people and the situation at hand. “If a certain method doesn't work, you have got to find another method that will work,” Stacy states with a flash of intensity in her eyes. “You discover a range of methods that are effective. Will I have to go over the wall, under the wall, around the wall? I will find a way to make it work because the mission is too important.”

Transferable skills such as diligence, perseverance and discipline are some of the many important skills that people can develop via opera and the arts, while also challenging themselves. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
In speaking about the skills that opera can help people develop, Stacy says that “diligence, perseverance, and discipline,” are a part of those indispensable skills.

“It stretches you, and it demands that you go outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t reinforce what you already know, it’s not entertainment in that way,” she declares. “Art makes you go a little further and it might challenge you in some way,” she says.

In reflecting on the impact of technology, Stacy believes that while it speeds up processes, the creative process needs to take its time and not be rushed. “There is a certain kind of process to learning or absorbing something and then developing,” she professes, otherwise “you absolutely diminish the creative process and final product.”

Brightman strongly believes that through “creativity and empathy” much of humanity will be saved. “I think it’s creativity and empathy that are going to save humanity,” she declares. “We’re in the empathy business”.