SAN ANTONIO - John Nix admits that the idea of breaking out in song from sea to shining sea is not original, yet he will use song as a bridge to hopefully inspire a greater sense of humanity on the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is recognized.
"There's something very powerful when people sing together," Nix said. "We have to listen to each other and we have to do our own part at the same time."
The University of Texas at San Antonio professor got inspired at a concert with the National Association of Teachers of Singing. He said that opera singer Renee Fleming asked the audience to sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” for the violence happening in Chicago.
"And I thought, we've got to do this more in this country," he said.
Professor Nix enlisted the help of colleagues to start America Sings Together on MLK Day. Nix thought it was the perfect time to connect with people through song. They used social media to spread the word.
Nix chose “Amazing Grace” to honor the slain civil rights leader.
"We chose that song because it's very popular," he said.
2017 was the musical movement's first year and 27 cities participated. Nix is hoping to expand that number tenfold this year.
"It's a great way to celebrate the legacy and work of one of our greatest civil rights heroes in a song that's all about changing your ways and finding a new way forward," Nix explained.
How does it work? At 11 a.m. in each time zone on the national holiday celebrating Dr. King's birthday, start singing “Amazing Grace” wherever you are. Last year, as Nix walked in San Antonio's MLK March, he stopped on the side of the street to sing with members of a church he'd never met.
"Singing is one of those things anybody can do," he said.
Rachel Stern will sing with her professor. The Waco native is working on her master's in music at UTSA. She’s excited about singing for a King and a cause.
"It's great that we can just pause and say, ‘Hey, let's remember that we've come super far with this racism thing,’ but still have a long way to go," Stern said.
Her dream is an enormous crowd standing shoulder to shoulder singing.
Song, of course, was prevalent among those who fought during the civil rights movement. “We Shall Overcome” was by far the most recognized. On Monday at UTSA and across the country, the selection will be about grace.
"We all have the same grace extended to us, so we should extend the same grace to each other," Stern said.
Those on UTSA 's campus will sing at the Sombrilla Fountain outside of the John Peace Library.
On social media, the movement is using the hashtag #AmericaSingsTogetherMLKDay2018.
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