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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

Can Music Change the World?

“Music can change the world because it can change people,” proclaims Irish singer-songwriter Bono. And while science is still studying just how music affects listeners, it’s clear that it can be a powerful force. Songs can express emotion, tell stories and build community.

The power of music as a force for change is part of the message — and mission — of two ensembles performing at the University of Dayton this semester as part of the ArtsLIVE Performance Series.

The Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble visits in February with a program that tells the story of the power of community. In March, Women of the World — an award-winning a cappella quartet based in Boston — visits with songs that reflect their international roots. Both groups will spend time with students and community members in residency programs.

Fifth House Ensemble

Fifth House Ensemble’s wind quintet performs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the Jesse Philips Humanities Center’s Sears Recital Hall, with a program inspired by a Puerto Rican folktale. The project is the culmination of work the group did with Chicago communities — and reflects its commitment to civic engagement.

According to director Melissa Ngan, whether working with a school or a neighborhood, Fifth House “uses storytelling to give people what they need to engage actively.”

Ngan, who is also Fifth House’s flutist, uses a collaborative mindset in the group’s work with communities. When successful, these partnerships lead to new, creative work — but also to real transformation for the participants.

“We do community work with the understanding that nothing happens without listening,” Ngan said. “People want to be heard, and it’s our goal to make sure that happens.”

While in Dayton, Fifth House musicians will share their story with University music majors and discuss how they combine their professional commitment to making music with their passion for making a difference in community. They’ll also engage in an afterschool program, the Miracle Makers, at Ruskin Elementary School, and participate in a program designed for community and campus program leaders entitled, “Building Community through Culture.”

Women of the World

Women of the World performs at 7:30 p.m. March 20 in the Kennedy Union ballroom and is expected to be a community-wide draw. Last year, the group won the international championship of the A Cappella Open at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The group’s four members have different international backgrounds that play a strong role in their work. As their mission statement proclaims, “We sing for not just tolerance, but wisdom, respect and joy.”

Singing, which is the single most accessible way that people engage with the arts, also has proven benefits: Science has found that singers release endorphins and oxytocin. In other words, singing makes us feel good. Maybe that accounts for the rise in popularity of a cappella locally and nationally. The University’s campus has seen an increase in the groups as well — with popular ensembles such as the Flying Solos and Audio Pilots.

For information about additional programming associated with Women of the World and Fifth House Ensemble, contact ArtsLIVE Coordinator Eileen Carr at or visit the program website at

Tickets are $18 general admission; $15 for University alumni and seniors ages 60 and above; $10 for University employees; and $5 for youth under 18. With support from the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Dayton student admission is free.

Tickets are available at the Kennedy Union Box Office or online at

The ArtsLIVE Performance Series, established in 1961, is supported by the College of Arts and Sciences. The performance and residency featuring Fifth House Ensemble is additionally supported by the University’s Graul Chair for Arts and Languages and the Arts Midwest Touring Fund — a program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional contributions from the Ohio Arts Council and the Crane Group.

- Eileen Carr, ArtsLIVE coordinator

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