Every year the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio performs Classic Albums Live. The teenage symphony recreates albums from the past with local bands and singers. But the concert in March 2019 comes amidst controversy.
Last year Music Director Troy Peters decided to celebrate in March 2019 one of the top-selling albums of all time: Michael Jackson's 1982 album "Thriller." But in January 2019, the documentary "Leaving Neverland" appeared at the Sundance Film Festival. It detailed child molestation charges against the singer. Despite the subsequent uproar, Peters decided to move forward with the Jackson-themed concert. He discussed his decision with Arts and Culture Reporter Jack Morgan.
Jack Morgan: Have you had much response from YOSA kids or parents about doing "Thriller" since this came about?
Troy Peters: We wrote to our families and laid out the plan to move forward or not move forward. Why we want it to move forward. And we asked for feedback, and the overwhelming feedback was, 'yes, let's move forward with this show.' Our musicians have worked hard on putting together this presentation, and they want to take the stage.
JM: All right, so you have had interchange with parents and kids and the overwhelming response has been 'let's, let's do it.'
TP: Absolutely. Yeah. We've reached out to all the families involved in the production and again, we've had overwhelming positive support for presenting our concert on March 11th.
JM: And no reaction from YOSA donors yet?
TP: We have not had any response from donors or sponsors. We've been in touch with the concert sponsors to let them know some of our plan.
JM: In fact your plan, part of that is involving Child Safe, right?
TP: Yeah, absolutely. You know, when, when we decided to move forward, one of the reasons we did it was because we really felt like this was an opportunity to increase awareness of local non-profits who are fighting child abuse. We have non-profit agencies in this town who were doing great work to prevent and fight child abuse -- Child Safe is a real leader in that field. And they've agreed to be present at the concert, sharing information about what they do and offering resources to audience members. And then we're also in conversation with other child advocacy organizations about using this event as a platform to increase awareness.
JM: Now you understand, I'm sure that some might feel like honoring the a man who has been credibly accused as Jackson has been, would rub some people wrong way.
TP: We felt like it was an opportunity to have this conversation and for us to, to bring people in front of our audience who might not normally get in front of our audience, our audience might not normally meet anybody from Child Safe. And so we're happy to have the chance to do that.
JM: So, what is potentially a horrible scandal ... you're trying to turn it into a teachable moment, essentially?
TP: It doesn't diminish the horrible nature of this situation, but we hope that we can use this opportunity to, for an audience that's already planning to be here and for people who work on this issue to come together and learn more about each other and hopefully work together, and we hope there'll be a little bit of money raised too. They will be, our audience members will support these organizations now, childhood traumas.
JM: Now, childhood traumas are not a rational place, you know. I mean, people have visceral reactions.
TP: There's no question that this might not be an event for everybody that ... any kind of cultural context, there are opportunities for people to be triggered as we, as we say these days, and you know, that, we're aware of that. And, but again, the reality is that this, this event we hope will be a place where people can enjoy the performances by these young musicians that by these local artists who've done a great deal of work together and have thoughtful and meaningful engagement on doing better in the future on preventing this kind of circumstance in the future.