For these singers, friendship and music trump their political differences
Paul Bergman and Gabe Stefanides have strongly held but diametrically opposed political views, yet they have found a way to develop a deep friendship through their musical kinship in the Apollo Club.
I find this remarkable and encouraging, for we live in a time when politics has divided families and friends all over the country. Stefanides and Bergman have found a way for love to overcome political disagreement.
Bergman and Stefanides joined me for a conversation as part of my Art of Community NCW podcast to talk about their mutual love of music, this country and the deep sense of appreciation they have for each other.
They make a conscious choice not to judge each other’s motivation.
They have other things in common, too. Bergman, a retired teacher who taught in Wenatchee and Maui, volunteers several days a week teaching kids in after-school programs. Gabe, a student at Wenatchee Valley College who is preparing for a career singing opera, also volunteers his time to help struggling students.
They are not afraid to share their political differences with each other. They just choose not to make it personal.
The shared passion for music brought them together.
Singing together, Bergman says, “is an energizing experience” because of the opportunity for 30 or 40 men to get together and sing with passion and heart.
“The point of getting together at the Apollo Club is to make music,” Stefanides chimed in. The reason they have become friends is because of that common goal. “I don’t care that you voted this way,” he added. “What I care about is how do we move forward, not how do we move backward.”
Bergman put it this way: “We love music. We love this country.” To which Stefanides added, “Amen.”
Music has a unique power to bring people together and create common purpose. It’s that larger purpose in life that gets lost all too often in petty animosity and acrimony.
The message that both Stefanides and Bergman shared with me was that hatred is leading our country astray and we need as individuals to turn toward love for one another.
“We’re charged…to care for one another, to look out for one another,” said Bergman, who was once a teacher at St. Paul’s school in Wenatchee.
On Saturday night, Feb. 10 at the Numerica Performing Arts Center, Stefanides, Bergman and the rest of the Apollo Club will be singing their hearts out in celebration of this country.
The program is titled, appropriate enough: “This Is My Country: A Choral Tapestry.” There will be songs about the Wild West, patriotic signs and even a spiritual titled “Keep in the middle of the road.”
And keeping at the emotional middle is the practice that Stefanides and Bergman have been able to maintain.
They want to share the experience of kinship and brotherhood with all of us in this community at the concert. It is an opportunity for us to find common cause with our neighbors and celebrate our many blessings.
Asked what he hopes the audience reacts, Bergman said: “I hope they leave arm in arm realizing we’re all grateful to be Americans.”
Let’s make sure we pack the Performing Arts Center and give our thanks and appreciation to a group that is living the American ideal of brotherhood.