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Stephen Sondheim

Award-winning Composer and Lyricist

Among the shows that passed the desk, I looked at one and the title page said Assassins -- I just immediately thought, "That's a musical," without knowing anything about it -- by a man named Charles Gilbert. And I opened it up and it was essentially a tale of a soldier who comes back from Vietnam and he's politicized and becomes an assassin and he tries to assassinate I'm not sure if it was the president. I think it was. At any rate, along with this story, which is really one of paranoia, there was a sort of Sidney Greenstreet figure who would appear as sort of the spirit of evil, who would appear sporadically and read quotations from various politicians' letters. I don't think they were all presidents, but anyway. So it was interspersed with history, and it wasn't for us. We decided not to do it. But many years later I was talking to John Weidman. We had written together, and we wanted to write something else together, and I mentioned this to him, and his eyes lit up and he got it right away, the way I did, and he said, "I don't know what it is, but that's a great idea." I said, "Let me see if I can track down Charles Gilbert," and I did, and I wrote him a letter, and I said, "Could we use your idea? We won't use your show, just the idea of Assassins." And to my delighted surprise, he said "Absolutely, providing that it doesn't ever prevent me from putting my show on, if I can find a way to put it on." I said absolutely not.
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Wole Soyinka

Nobel Prize for Literature

Wole Soyinka: It was very simple. I belong to the West, the Yorùbá part of the federation. And in a war, when a war is being fought, it is being fought on behalf of people. And this war committed me, as a Nigerian, it committed me, and I felt that war was wrong and I refused to accept that, to be committed in that way. The Biafrans had been violated. They had been massacred. It was more than one massacre, it was like a wave of massacres. And they were being hunted everywhere. In other words, the conduct of the Federal side, at least that portion to which I belong, indicated -- said, in plain language, even though it was not articulated as such, "You, the Igbo, are no longer part of the federation." There was no way, nothing was done to make them feel secure, at least not enough was done to make them feel secure in the rest of the nation. And then, after they had seceded, which I considered, by the way, a tactical mistake -- not a political crime, not a moral crime, no, no, no, no, no. It was a tactical error. But then, to go after them, to declare war against them on this banal basis of unity above anything else! Unity of what? I mean, who committed the act of disuniting the nation in the first place? Those who made the Igbo feel they were not part of the full entity. So for me it was an unjust war of which I could not be a part. And if I'd not gone to the East, I would have gone into exile, because I would refuse to be part of that entity which waged war against a people who had been so dehumanized. So in effect, it was for my own peace of mind, to try and do everything possible to make sure the war did not take place.
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Esperanza Spalding

Singer, Songwriter and Jazz Bassist

For all of the hype that Grammy created, it's all died down now. And I just am reminding myself you don't need all that to make incredible glorious art that touches a lot of people and can go really far. That should always, I think, be the predominant goal in your head because the music industry is always playing catch-up with what's really happening. So if you're out in the world trying to chase a version of what works, you're already too late. All you can do is cultivate and bring out what you're hearing based on your life and your dreams and your fears and your wishes. Bring it out the best you possibly can. Find people to help you bring it out better than you can do it by yourself, and then find the "demographic," quote-unquote, or I just like to say, "the people in the world who will dig it," because even if it's one in a million, that's still a lot of people who will like your music. And I guarantee you'll be less likely to become an addict, alcoholic, womanizer, or sufferer of life. Which, there's no good reason -- if you won the womb lottery and you're born in the "developed world" -- you have to suffer through life. I think a lot of artists, they were born with this thing, this vision, this calling to do something that only they could see, and they compromise that for opportunity and exposure. I think they suffer greater than somebody who doesn't get the notoriety but spends their whole life pursuing and developing their passion.
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