Originally written by Donnie Edwards and published by the Ledger Media Group. Visit the Ledger.com to view the original article.

Our society’s focus is increasingly on national and international culture — the “large-scale.”

Social media and increasing digitization are putting the world, quite literally, in the palms of our hands. The ease and convenience with which we become informed and develop opinions on massive, national political happenings and international relationships is becoming more efficient and accessible each day.

The momentum of Western culture is firmly set in this direction. We’re seeing an interesting curiosity developing that finds its most succinct expression in the current political races: division and polarization. We look to the large-scale picture of our society to find stability. We hope to find the path toward better, healthier communities in the big picture.

How easy it is to forget that these large-scale issues are remedied at the local and regional levels. What stories are missed by the public because of increasing disconnection with our local communities? What depth of experience — what lessons — are overlooked by our fixation on the lives of those distant and uninterested in our own?

The arts have always been important to society and the development of culture for this same reason. The most vital function of the arts in the development of culture is in its powerful and unique manner of storytelling.

Though the arts do, at times, portray escapist concepts and narratives, it all comes back to the stories and experiences of the every-person. It is for this reason — and the arts’ marriage to the all-important function of free speech — that the arts are often the first target of tyrants and malign regimes alike.

Celebrities are entertaining (often distracting), and larger-than-life political figures create movements and attempt to embody ideas. However, without the every-person and the stories of their lives, all of the entertainment and movements would be for naught. The often-overlooked stories of individuals and families that are not strictly “newsworthy” are the very backbone of our national narrative — the story of “us.”

On Nov. 11, “Sinfonia: Connecting the Arts & Community” will take place at the Polk Theatre in downtown Lakeland.

Joseph DeBeasi, a professional composer and music editor for some major Hollywood productions such as “American Sniper,” “Eleven Eleven” and “Alpha,” interviewed several families of veterans in Central Florida, as well as many veterans, to compose orchestral pieces that are purposed to tell their stories.

One of the pieces, entitled “One More Minute,” was performed at the last Sinfonia event, which took place in March 2018, and will be performed again. DeBeasi’s new interviews with families of Central Florida veterans, which were conducted this summer, have resulted in a new composition, entitled “A Thousand Faces.”

“I met with several military families. Some are new to the military, others have been military families for generations. Their stories ranged from pride and excitement to anxiety, grief, and despair,” says DeBeasi regarding his new piece. “When it came time for me to compose this piece, I was deeply moved by the stories, especially those of loss and isolation. I wrestled with darkness and isolation until finally writing it into the composition.”

Events like “Sinfonia: Connecting the Arts & Community” are important because they show that “local” doesn’t mean unimportant, small, or forgettable.

It shows that the national and international tapestries of culture are woven and shaped by unique local threads. These threads are the stories of our communities that are often out of the public eye, but so deeply affect the national narratives we find captivating.

Respectful, collective discourse about areas of disagreement and conflict are important to the democratic process. We need it now more than ever. However, we often forget to take time to remember what unites us. This is sometimes the most important. No matter our individual thoughts about policy or politics, we are all Americans. The flag represents us — whether or not the society it represents has always been for some of us. It is a symbol of where we are headed — not just where we have been.

Just like our flag, Sinfonia is a symbol to our region that we are not settling for what has always been. Sinfonia is a symbol to the community that we are ready to build a better tomorrow, together.

For more information on “Sinfonia: Connecting the Arts & Community,” visit cam.seu.edu/cam-news. To purchase tickets, visit cam.seu.edu/sinfonia. Tickets cost $30 for VIP seating, $12 for general admission, $10 for students and $5 for veterans and active military personnel.

Donnie Edwards works as College Advancement and Creative Lead for the College of Arts & Media at Southeastern University in Lakeland.