By Brendan O'Brien | all school, Arts, Performing Arts

What best brings us together?

There’s an argument to be made for food, of course. Meals. The intentional sitting down with others around an actual table to eat off actual plates without Netflix blaring in the background. However, in this day and age of paleo and vegan, no bun and no fun, even a simple meal can sometimes go a-rye.

So maybe football then. Here in Wisconsin who hasn’t experienced friendships formed or strengthened by watching the green and gold or cardinal and white? Well, at least until someone from Illinois or Minnesota pipes up. No offense to Minnesotans or Illinoisans. Your states are very nice what with their lakes and their toll roads, but when it comes to your football opinions….well…your opinions are wrong.

Sooo…what? What is the great unifier? What rallies us? Moves us? What unites us in the grand experiment of being alive and human and happy?

Last month – for the second consecutive year – Prairie teamed up with the Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra to host the Woody Herman Jazz Festival here on campus. Stomping off their boots and lugging their black, oblong instrument cases on a snowy January morning, students from across SE Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Beloit, New Berlin – gathered in the John Mitchell Theatre for a day of music. 100 teachers and teenagers eager to bond over their love of making art. Strangers with nothing in common but an affinity for the violin and cello, the trumpet and trombone.

“It was another incredible day of fun and learning,” said Jamie Breiwick, Prairie’s Instrumental Music teacher and the man responsible for bringing Jazz Day to campus. “It’s always so cool to see the way jazz – and music in general – can bring us together.”

It’s not just Jazz Day. Here on campus, music – whether it’s an event’s main attraction (like Jubilate), or a subtle component (like Diwali) – is central to our way of life. Student musicians perform at Premiere. The dining room plays country music on cookout Fridays. Tech Theatre blares Michael Jackson while building their sets. And while there will always be a debate on what type of music (purple) rains supreme – Billy Idol vs. Billie Holiday vs. Billie Eilish – no one can really refute the unifying power of song.

Everyone taps a toe, everyone has a go-to karaoke. The human heart is wired for artistry, for song, and all of us have the innate capacity to be moved to emotion, our hearts swelling thanks to the sounds of music.