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IMPULSA - Fòrum Fundació Príncep de Girona
IMPULSA - Fòrum Fundació Príncep de Girona

Barbara Hendricks and Elena Gadel: Being an activist is every citizen’s obligation. Be subversive, question the rules


EG: Young people often feel insecure. How can we prevent this?

BH: It is not only singers who feel afraid; life is all about facing our fears. I grew up as a refugee in my own country, because when I was young I did not have the same rights as other Americans, and it was not until 1965 that I became a full citizen. I grew up afraid. The more fears you face, the stronger you become. You have to keep taking small steps and you will gradually start losing your fear.

You have to ask yourself why you get up on stage and sing. You must be honest. For me, being an artist is one of the most honest vocations, but you always have to be behind your art, because you serve it. You are there to share a universal message, it is something bigger than you, and then you will have no fear.


EG: When we are working in different disciplines, for example teaching and music, do we have to choose?

BH: You have to follow your passion, and then you won’t ask yourself that question. If you get up in the morning and think ‘I want to sing’, then you have to dedicate yourself to it.


EG: What advice would you give to these young people leaving the IMPULSA Forum today with everything we have experienced here?

BH: The answer is inside you. We have listened to many inspiring messages, but what really counts is what moves you personally, and that makes you look for a difference. My life is a grain of sand, but that grain matters. For a girl like me from the south of the United States, education was very important; knowledge never slows you down, so I studied mathematics and chemistry. Singing did not seem to be a profession for me, even though I had always known that I could sing and sing well. When I was given the opportunity to study at the Juilliard School in New York at the age of 19, I decided to take the plunge and try it. And here I am today.

Now that I am retired, I sing for pleasure, or when I find an interesting project. I could not live without singing, but I could live without the degrees that I studied.


EG: How do you combine this with your social commitment?

BH: Being an activist is every citizen’s obligation. When I gained rights as a citizen, I began to worry about my responsibilities. Everybody must collaborate as much as they can.

Be subversive, question the rules: the rules change over time, and they change because people make them change. It is your job to ask yourself why things are as they are. You should see the crisis as an opportunity for you, young people, to establish new rules.


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