In putting together the panel, Michelle Heffner Hayes, executive director of Miami-Dade Community College's Department of Cultural Affairs, and artistic director Greg Jackson had to find people who come from faith-based singing communities and who are performers, teachers, and cultural anthropologists. Jackson traveled to New York and interviewed administrators at the Asia Society, where a similar event took place post-9/11. "It's called a sung panel because it's as much a performance as an educational experience," Hayes explains. The event marks a change in direction for Cultura del Lobo. "This year is about establishing connections," notes Hayes. "Since 9/11, we have been trying to make sense of the world through the curatorial process and by reaching out to different communities. You could call it unabashed peacemaking through the arts and especially singing."
The Sacred Voices project builds on work the Department of Cultural Affairs has been doing over the years with faith-based organizations. Two years ago, Lila Downs, who sings on the soundtrack for the movie Frida, performed in Homestead and worked with the Mexican community there via their choral groups. "Certain studies indicate that people who participate in church activities are more likely to be interested in arts events," says Hayes. "In Miami there are large groups of people who identify with their families and neighborhoods. They want to attend events but more on their turf. Through presenting different vocal traditions, the series hopes to reach out to those people who are actively involved in their own community's musical tradition."