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ACROSS BORDERS: Concert aims to bring two sides closer together

A concert along the border will aim to highlight border relationships and show the situation is more complex than is normally portrayed by national media.

“Concerts Without Borders” is a collaboration of musicians, singers and artists from the United States and Mexico, taking place Saturday on both sides of the border, said Dan Simonis, a Bisbee singer who will perform at the event. The event is free and open to the public.

“So, you’ve got this wonderful thing happening, where you have this community effort on both sides right up against the fence. It’s pretty cool,” Simonis said.

Simonis said he is involved with the concert because he wants to shed some light on what it’s like for him and others who live near the border.

“I think it’s important to show there’s more to it,” he said. “This is a living, breathing border here, and you’ve got schoolkids coming across from Mexico going to school here.

“Those of us who live right here on the border, we go to lunch there, get our shoes fixed or go to the doctors or dentists there. So, we really do have a community. There’s families that span both sides.”

The effort to have an international performance on the border began in 2012, said Concerts Without Borders organizer Lori Keyne. Back then, the show featured performers taking turns doing pieces for one another, with a joint chorus performance at the end.

Then, in 2014, the Mexican Consulate and the cities of Douglas and Agua Prieta got involved, and it became “a much bigger event,” Keyne said.

“What makes this year unique is that all of the bands have collaborated with some other band on the other side of the border,” she said. “So all of the music will be played at the same time with some type of participation on both sides of the border from the musicians that are involved.”

Cochise College and the University of Sonora are both sponsoring the event, with several instructors from the college helping out, Keyne added. The event will also feature an art walk starting at 5 p.m., thanks to the Border Arts Corridor, she said.

Several choirs with children and adults, bands and groups from Douglas and Bisbee schools will all be involved, as well as students from Cochise College and schools in Agua Prieta.

“Music is one of the strongest forms of communication — that you can perform with someone else, and in a way become family, making a relationship through music that can’t be done any other way,” she said.

Both Simonis and Keyne said they think it is important to have this concert, as the national conversation doesn’t tell the full story.

“I have relatives in the Midwest calling me up and asking me what it’s like to live in the war zone,” Simonis said. “And I’ll say, ‘What war?’ and they say, ‘The border war.’

“And I’ll answer, ‘Well, there are a bunch of little kids crossing to go to school, and I’m going over later for lunch.’ ”

Simonis said he didn’t want to downplay the recent cartel violence that has hit Agua Prieta, but he also said he didn’t want to focus on the negativity.

“I think it’s important to work on building harmony rather than always finding the problems,” he said.

When he played the show a few years ago, Simonis said he felt “everyone was so sweet, they all were saying they were your friend. There’s not this animosity between two countries — there’s a true love and friendship that goes on.”

Keyne said she has seen relationships made by bringing groups together to perform.

“It’s just a powerful way to get to know one another, music is a very powerful medium,” she said.

“The more you get to know someone, the less fear you will have — that’s a prominent thing that can happen when you get to learn someone’s situation, or who someone is.

“I find that making music with other people can break down one’s own personal stereotypes — we all have them.”

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