At The Athena Advisors we are passionate about advocating for the powerful role the arts can play in the field of social justice. Different to conventional consulting firms, we are committed to raising the performance and capacity of our mission driven sector through capacity-building programs. Our Music Curator in Residence, Carmen Bitar, selects music for our capacity-building events, and here she offers us a snapshot into how music shapes her life.

A word on music by Carmen Bitar, Music Curator in Residence at The Athena Advisors.

I remember the first time I listened to a song which shifted my perspective on music. As a little girl, I realized music provided more than just the backdrop for a beautiful dance. The song “Born in the USA!” by Bruce Springsteen tugged at my heart and I felt a kick from his lyrics. Music is a powerful tool! I have always felt inspired by the messages of hope in music.  

 Music plays a cosmic role in entertaining; it enlivens a party and makes you want to put on your dancing shoes. Music also has a way of taking your hand for a walk and tells a story. It’s poetic, it expresses injustices, and yearns for justice within the sweet vocal cords and melody. It is a platform to express and be heard. Music provides a voice to the voiceless. Songs compose a debut for universal connections. The instruments produce inspiration, sooth you, make you cry, take you on a journey of heartache, lessons, love, loss and hope. If you listen and tune out the static, you can hear the whisper of magic and the beauty of music: it brings people together. Music is the “mise en place”.  

Have you ever walked in the woods, or a park filled with trees, next to a lake or a river? Listened to the Springtime leaves? Winter’s howling winds? It’s natures invitation for you to dance.  

Music allows me to pause and provides perspective. It’s everywhere! It’s in books, the subway, a conversation, the park. 

Through music, I have found inspiration, connections through my daily experiences and encounters. Stories, strengths, fears and vulnerabilities shared across continents highlight the importance of connecting through music. Through this, I bring music to The Athena Advisors events program. 

My role as music curator began in December 2020, with the monthly Stronger/Together forums, a program within the firm’s portfolio of capacity-building activities for professionals involved in social justice work. A diverse group of professionals at every career stage, in academia, nonprofit management, consulting, and government. We can all appreciate a song for many different reasons. 

 For the December forum on Staying Motivated, I began with a song called “The Book of Love” by Peter Gabriel. The song captures my creativity, my energy. The songs message is this: life can be challenging, and beautiful at the same time. Life and communities are like plants which need support to grow in abundance. There are times when the soil needs to be replaced or watered. 

 The songs I curate are inspired by those who surround me. I have found much inspiration through the Stronger/Together forum: the group supports each other and the community, they are open minded, caring and want to create sustainable opportunities. Through this forum, I am empowered to share music! The community is a symphony bringing people together from all over the world to tune in and listen. To empty our cups of doubts, fears, struggles and fill them with hope. 

 The forums are personal, poetic and transcendental. They fill us with hope, take us on a journey of love, strength, and discovery. Through the discoveries, we become rooted! The community within and surrounding The Athena Advisors advocates for a better world, one by one! In the journal Bamako Sounds, Ryan Thomas Skinner[1] writes, on The Afropolitan Ethics of Malian Music: “music, the artists who make it, and the audiences who interpret it [thus] represent a crucial means of articulating and disseminating the ethics and aesthetics of” a varied and vital community and beyond.  

To quote Peter Gabriel:
The Book of Love is Long and Boring 
no one can lift the damn thing 
it’s full of charts and facts and figures.  
The book of love has music in it 
in fact that’s where music comes from.  
Some of it’s just transcendental and some of it’s just really dumb.   

 Watch out for an interactive playlist from Carmen Bitar in our upcoming anniversary report. To be published soon.


[1]  Ryan Thomas Skinner (2016). Bamako Sounds: The Afropolitan Ethics of Malian Music. The Journal of Pan African Studies, 9(1), 562–562.