Note: The following is the text of a speech delivered at a Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert on October 28, the day after the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Good afternoon. My name is Stephen Kostyniak, I am a member of the French horn section of the Pittsburgh Symphony, and this year I am chair of the Orchestra Committee of the PSO Musicians.
Speaking in the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Leonard Bernstein shared this sentiment:
We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.
Yesterday, as news spread of the sickening assault that struck our city, words of sympathy, support, and encouragement poured in from friends and colleagues around the country. More than a few who knew I would address you today begged me not to read that standard, well-worn Bernstein quote. And I thought, “How much ugliness is in this world, how desperate must the world be, when even Bernstein’s eloquent and moving response to violence has become overused.”
So as you think of Bernstein’s words, focus not on “what” we musicians will do, but “why”. My predecessor as Chair, Susanne Park, argues passionately that access to great Art is not a luxury of wealth, but a basic human right. This week, many of our basic human rights have been threatened—to worship, to love, to live. Art exists in society to express the inexpressible and to give an outlet and voice to every emotion, from anguish to ecstasy. Through each note we play we preach a testament of harmony and unity. A world in pain needs that message now more than ever. As the violinist and educator Shinichi Suzuki said, “All people who love Art burn with the obligation to save the world.”
Our Music Director, Maestro Manfred Honeck, asked to share how heartbroken he was at this horrific tragedy, and that he holds the entire Pittsburgh community in his thoughts and prayers. He says “Please know that while I am sadly not with you today in person, I am there with you in spirit.”
On behalf of the entire Pittsburgh Symphony family, we express our deepest sorrow and sympathy, and dedicate this weekend’s performances to all those who have been impacted.
May our offering today renew our commitment to community and join all of us in a spirit of peace and beauty, strength, hope and love.