Category Archives: peace education

A Letter to Those Co-Creating Social Change With and Through Music

Dear musicians, music educators, scholars, educator-facilitators, activists, researchers, and anyone else who would like to join,

It has taken me a while to arrive here. It has taken me a while to piece together the many strands of what I have experienced in practice and learned in theory this past year. It is not until recently that I “caught sense” of what is this developing grassroots field we and the youth we work with are in the process of co-creating. More than ever I feel this edgy pressure bellowing down my back to share, and to make accessible the funds of knowledge I’ve gained while studying my MA at Teachers College with you all- musicians, music educators, scholars, educator-facilitators, activists,  researchers, and anyone else involved in this field throughout the world. It is the language and understanding of this field that I hope to develop in dialogue with you all who are investigating theory and who are in practice on the ground.

When asked earlier this semester by a professor of mine that I highly admire whether it was my goal to publish anything by the end of this year, I answered with a resounding, “No.” I shut that door so closed that I could feel my eyes squeeze shut. Let’s be real, putting  your discoveries down on paper and then sharing them on a public platform is terrifying. Many questions arise surrounding your validity, your right to lay down such ideas, explanations, and beliefs: Will they think it’s smart enough? Will I seem “expert” enough? Does this really matter? Who is this for?!

Several weeks ago, I had, in the words of educational philosopher Maxine Greene, “an awakening.” When will it be time for me to assume this role of interpreter, researcher, knower, doer, and sharer in this developing field? As long as I wait for the next understanding, and then the next understanding, I will find myself waiting forever. No change can come in waiting, whether boldly big or significantly small, for somebody else to tell you that the time has arrived. Along these lines, I found within my own musical and administrative work with grassroots music education-youth empowerment nonprofits that a divide arose before me between the language that I have learned in my MA and the language that is understood on the ground in practice. Overcoming this divide is critical, and the way I believe we can do this is by uncovering the existent bridge between theory and practice, so that individuals from both worlds can speak with each other.

What is theory after all but just a way of explaining ideas and understandings? What is practice after all but the carrying out of ideas and understandings? Educational philosopher Paulo Freire speaks of the idea of praxis, the conjoining of theory and practice. In other words we learn by taking action and then from reflecting upon this action. And who are educational philosophers anyway, but people who do not take what happens in the world for granted by noticing the world around them and who they are in this world. It is the re-recognizing of our everyday knowledge that exists within every one of us, while uncovering new parts of ourselves when we experience and reflect upon new things or re-experience and reflect upon past things- like the already existent bridge between theory and practice that we are unveiling.

I thought this was clear to me after all my experience in practice and now time in academia, but then felt a reverberating shock when I found myself entangled in this abyss. It became clear that my call to write could wait no longer as I found myself part of the system that continues to create this divide. I had become “the stranger” to the world of practice when my first steps into activism and social change were born in practice! And yet, could I have made this discovery if I did not find myself “the stranger” in this situation where what had been familiar became unfamiliar?

It is my utmost goal from this point on to do everything possible to unveil the bridge connecting these two worlds with you through interpreting and discovering with care, providing points of entry for those involved in theory and those involved in practice, and hopefully co-creating with you all an ever evolving space in which these two worlds meet, so we can truly foster social change through our daring work.

With love,

Shoshana

Advertisements

Structure and Creativity: Learning about and for Peacebuilding & Musicmaking

The field of peacebuilding is ever growing and expanding with new partnerships forming between state and non-state actors through more creative ways of access enabled by advancing technological platforms.  Amidst a rather negative media that seems to be more willing to tell stories of conflict, rather than stories of peacebuilding and reconciliation, it is incredibly important to create a stronger emphasis on exposing communities to the integral activism that is occurring perhaps even in their own backyards.

As the field of peacebuilding continues to grow, so too does the development of critical peacebuilding education increasingly with a focus on music and the expressive arts. One such example of this was brought to my attention recently.

The grammy winning Colombian musician Juanes, a familiar name in my own music library, recently partnered with the United States Institute of Peace Global Peacebuilding Center (GPC) to address his activism as a musician and peacebuilder through music.  This partnership, between state and non-state actor nonetheless with music as a medium for social activism, perked my interest. Not only does this partnership facilitate and serve as an example of the many ways in which music can be utilized as a tool for social activism, but in addition it is a resource perfect for the classroom readily accessible through the Internet and technology.

Searching further on the GPC website, I found a short video segment created by GPC recognizing the importance of youth and peacebuilding pointing to the growing power of youth via social media and technology.

In the music classes I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays at KIPP Star Middle School in Harlem, I used both the GPC’s Juanes video segment and the Bukra fi Mishmish music video, written and performed by Israeli and Palestinian youth members of Heartbeat, as examples of how music is powerful. From there, we asked ourselves: what is our Hope List? What do we hope for ourselves, our families, our communities, our world? Our Hope Lists, which will ultimately serve as the foundation of the last song(s) of the semester, were shared via an exercise called a Sensitivity Line (to view, please visit the KIPP Star Musical Collective blog).

The Sensitivity Line is a group performance exercise that was taught to me by PYE- Global: Partners for Youth Empowerment during the Seeds of Peace-Educators Course I attended last August. The Sensitivity Line gives each student the spotlight to shine, yet while in a group atmosphere with group support. By putting the student constructively “on edge”, the interest in delivering a rewarding outcome in front of peers increases the student’s affinity for self-efficacy, thus building self-confidence, too.

I was impressed with the overall results of this classroom activity on many levels. My students:

1. Had fun!

2. Learned new aspects about music, musicmaking, and peacebuilding.

3. Deepened their understanding about themselves, their peers, and their communities.

4. Expressed critical consciousness, solidarity, and imagination.

5. Were constructively put “on edge” by performing through the Sensitivity Line

6. Experiencing the concepts of drafting and process.

I look forward to the possibility of many more classroom activities such as this one, which facilitate growth and creativity, while teaching about and for the subjects on hand. After all, great partnerships and imagination made this classroom activity possible.

(And by great partnerships, I am also referring to the genius and loving nature of my best friend who created the idea of the Hope List.)

_______________________________________________________

I attempt to cite all of the sources used in my writings and research as correctly as possible, so please adopt the same policy toward the works presented here and as well my own writings by citing this blog’s findings correctly. This blog is meant for sharing, not plagiarism. Thank you for your respect.

A Bird’s Eye View: Welcome to Class!

 
The purpose of this blog series, “A Bird’s Eye View,” is to give a periphery overlook into my classes at Teachers College, Columbia University. The majority of topics will derive from class assignments, specifically this semester from the course Creativity and Problem Solving in Music Education. Besides sharing experiences in learning in exposing a process of learning, I hope that beneficial insight from the classroom will seep into these posts for you- the reader.
**************************************************************************
 

Earlier this week, I began my graduate school studies at Teachers College, Columbia University pursuing a MA in International Educational Development with a focus on peace education. A say what? Yes, a MA in International Educational Development with a focus on peace education. Don’t worry, many others already pointed out that the title is long and semi-baffling. Before you ask the next question, let me take a step back and then elaborate further.

Comparative education is described by comparative education academic I.L. Kandel (1933) as the study of “general education, elementary and secondary, in the light of the forces- political, social, and cultural-which determine the character of national systems of education” (qtd. in Bajaj, 118). Now place comparative education into an international context where all of the above is researched at a global level, with the added intent of producing international content and programs that reflect research and theories that also foster intercultural understanding by bringing “together students, teachers, and scholars from different nations to learn about and from each other” (Epstein, 918). This, my friends, is international education development.  Both comparative education and international education intersect with peace education. All three of these terms are connected to relatively new, expanding fields reacting to current events and meeting the needs of our current globalizing world.

The study of international educational development can entail many focuses. Mine will center on how the creative process of music is used as a tool for social activism to empower youth and transform conflict.

Our first class discussion in Creativity and Problem Solving in Music Education revolved around the usual topics of “what is music?” and “who is a musician,” yet in a much more fascinating way ushered by inspiration of John Cage amidst his centennial. John Cage, best well known for his piece 4’33”, was a controversial modern composer and innovator who pushed the ideas of music and sound, performance, and purpose.

Of course we in class were given the chance to experiment in the making of all sorts of creative music/sound/noise with whatever we found in the classroom. Not going to lie, it was actually empowering at times and fun! I started with my Starbucks coffee cup, and then moved to a drum stick and blinds. That’s right, I was playing the blinds.

The reflective portion of the assignment was to divulge into what is considered beautiful music/sound and, when we perceive music/sound as ugly, why is that so? Two great readings, which are included (Greene – I still wonder at how unaware I was (2000) & Sheehy – Children Sound) for your curiosity as well, were utilized to supplement our writing. Many of my peers spoke about the sounds they heard in New York City or the performing we did in class. For whatever reason my reflective piece took on a whole different edge. I’m sure if John Cage read it, he would understand. “It is not irritating to be where one is. It is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else. Here we are now.” (Artificeofeternity, 2009)

—-

“It’s obvious this page not for any of you, and its more obvious we don’t want to deal with any one of you at any level. stop telling us your stories you are not the case owners, we are the case owner . so stop telling us your stories to gain our sympathize. And how you asking for equality, I will come to your place and steal your house and then when we rise the case at the court I will ask them to divide your house for two halves between you and me, is this equal for you?”      –Commentator A from Facebook, retrieved from online article in 972 Magazine

Here it is again tonight. I can see and hear the “angry barking,” though the only thing in front of me is text from an online magazine on my laptop screen. From there, I take a big, deep sigh. The feeling of my pulse as the palms of my hands rest on my temples is pronounced enough at this point, that I as well hear the thumping. All of a sudden what is gray, separates to black and white. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is screaming at me once again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs and this is nothing against them! I use the word “barking” and in fact, “angry barking,” because that is what commentary becomes on the Internet when discussing controversial topics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or perhaps, it’s the oh-so-regular topics discussed by controversial people). Amazingly, the “angry barking” is about whether or not a group of Israelis should be allowed to join their Palestinian counterparts in attending a concert this week in Amman, Jordan of a well-known music ensemble from Beirut, Lebanon, in light of historical events/historical stories/historical hearsay. This sentiment, the rejection of developing “normal” relations with Israelis and recognizing the establishment of the State of Israel, is known as anti-normalization. Though I do not personally know the people involved in the “angry barking,” I hear in my mind the escalation of their oscillating timbres as they duke it out virtually with one another. This reality, coupled with the sound effects, is the mind-game we enter when involved, connected, or a part of this conflict. It is not beautiful. And yet this very experience, of only small stature of many that affect Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, Christians, concerned peoples, etc., leads to the question: how do we overcome from here and find what is beautiful in the not beautiful?

A month ago, I participated in an Expressive Arts Educators Course at the Seeds of Peace International Camp in Portland, Maine. Seeds of Peace, to simply cut and paste from their website, “inspires and equips new generations of leaders from regions of conflict with the relationships, understanding, and skills needed to advance lasting peace.” (Seeds of Peace) Though Seeds of Peace programming is usually for youth, their various educators’ courses are for leaders and educators who are involved with reconciliation activities at the grassroots level, producing curriculum for these programs, or administrators in the school systems. At the Expressive Arts Educators Course, 35 artists (from visual art and theatre to music and spoken word) and/or educators represented of eight countries came together for two weeks to undergo a deeper understanding of the power of the arts to transform conflict and empower youth. Besides instructional class time, we all were placed in “home-groups” to discuss topics and reflect within a smaller, intimate setting, underwent group physical activities, and prepared a performance for the end of the course that encompassed what was discovered in deepening our understanding of each others’ narratives through our various art forms.

While reading the two articles for class after the “angry barking” episode, I began to reflect further on my time at Seeds of Peace. An incredible amount of the lessons in both of these articles are exactly what the organizers of the course were trying to construct for us through creatively exploring, learning, and sharing our narratives within and through our art forms. All of the participants at the camp were adults of varying ages. Don’t let that trick you into thinking we all acted maturely and intelligently no matter the situation. There were tough times, including several verbal explosions between members of different ethnicities (Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Cyprus, the U.S., India, and Pakistan were all represented). Even one member left mid-camp in tears; the rest of the group in shock of loosing what they had thought was a safe space. What did our facilitators use to rebuild the safe space that was shattered and assist us all in finding the ways in which we were able to express ourselves again? They had us reconnect, deeper through art, opening the space wider for our “inner-kiddo,” similarly as to what Sheehy describes, to feel safe enough to appear and interact with “the other.” Also, the final performance served as a team-building activity where we took artistic risks together and possessed a responsibility to each other to succeed.

In essence, we had discovered a freedom of some sort. With our imaginations vivaciously leading the way to our creativity unrestricted, we became more than just our labels, not just to the joyous audience present, but perhaps most importantly to ourselves. It was beautiful! If anything, the line Maxine Greene quotes of Sartre “”at the heart of the aesthetic imperative we discern the moral imperative” because “the work of art, from whichever side you approach it” (1949, pp. 62-63) is an act of confidence in the freedom of human begins. We feel that freedom here—to interpret, to reflect, and (now and then) change our lives”” resonates with the successful outcome, artistically and communally, of the final performance (Greene & qtd. in Greene, 198). We had surpassed our “angry barking” episode leading to the possibility of a shared future. Like the quote of Emily Dickinson in Greene’s essay: “The Possible’s slow fuse is lit/ By the Imagination.” (Greene & qtd. in Greene, 198).

Within the thread of my camp reflection, I call to mind the various texts I’ve read as of late in preparation for the awesome event of graduate school. The writings of Paulo Freire jumped off the page for me, as well various others like John Paul Lederach’s The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace. Now that I am here, I’ve read for another class several chapters of the Encyclopedia of Peace Education, which deconstructs all of the various terms and meanings in peace education, such as human rights education, global citizen education, structural violence, etc., and Galtung’s article on cultural violence.

Here is where I find myself at a current crossroad.

For as much as we may feel the essence of freedom through the exploration of art in all of its imagination and expressiveness, what about the structural violence on the outside which continues to keep the system afresh of top-dog in power marginalizing the underdog through lack of services and opportunities, fragmenting a population further beyond its repression of identity and culture? How do we encounter or counter this structural violence, which can be or lead to direct violence, through the arts and even more specifically, through music education? We at camp did surpass an ugly point through music and the arts in America, but what will happen now as we’ve returned to our respective countries with the “angry barking” of the media and the extremists? Can it last? Will we be able to expand upon what we learned from skills to our relationships with each other?

I leave you with these questions, which also I ask myself while searching for how to confront these issues, prepare curriculum and programming for the Israeli and Palestinian youth music non-profit Heartbeat, and keep updated on the events and issues in Israel/Palestine: What does it mean to sing about freedom and experience freedom through music, when beholden to structural violence and societal pressures like anti-normalization? What role can music education play in confronting structural violence? What do you think?

*Here’s a link to the music of Mashrou’ Leila, the music group performing in Amman, if you want to take a listen! (http://mashrou3leila.com/?album=el-hal-romancy)

I attempt to cite all of the sources used in my writings and research as correctly as possible, so please adopt the same policy toward the works presented here and as well my own writings by citing this blog’s findings correctly. This blog is meant for sharing, not plagiarism. Thank you for your respect.

_______________________________________________________

References

1. Al-Bream, Ruba (2012, September 9). Jordanians for the Cultural Boycott of the Zionist Entity. [Msg 20]. Message posted to Facebook Page

2. Artificeofeternity. (2009, August 1). John Cage: “Mushroom Haiku” and “At the Middle” [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNzVQ8wRCB0

3. Bajaj, Monisha (Eds.). (2008). Encyclopedia of Peace Education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

4. Epstein, E. H. (1994). Comparative and International Education: Overview and Historical Development.In T. Husén & T. N. Postlethwaite (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Education (2nded. pp. 918-923). New York: Pergamon.

5. joelyhberg. (2010, December 15). John Cage’s 4’33” [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTEFKFiXSx4

6. Seeds of Peace (www.seedsofpeace.org)

7. spncr525. (2009, May 11). John Cage- Water Walk [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63HoYXUeUTA

Bibliography

1.  Bajaj, Monisha (Eds.). (2008). Encyclopedia of Peace Education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

2. Galtung, Johan. (1990). Cultural Violence. Journal of Peace Research, 27 (3), 291-305. http://jpr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/27/3/291

3. Greene, M. (1978) Toward Wide-Awakeness: An Argument for the Arts and Humanities in Education, from Landscapes of Learning. New York: Teachers College Press., pp. 161-167

4. Epstein, E. H. (1994). Comparative and International Education: Overview and Historical Development.In T. Husén & T. N. Postlethwaite (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Education (2nded. pp. 918-923). New York: Pergamon.

5. Sheehy, E. (1952) “Children and Sound” from There’s Music in Children. New York: Holt Publishing. 1-13

Awakening Potentials: Where Narrative and Music Meet

Stalemate. Deadlock. Impasse. A never ending or changing reality. Hopelessness.

Upon facing insurmountable challenges run into the ground ten times over by proposed solution after proposed solution to no avail, then what? Game over? Or seek awakening potentials?

Music as a creative process is an ever expanding and evolving medium. It preserves the past by conjuring it in the present, while steadfastly proposing new boundaries to cross and explore.  Unprecedented musical ideas seen as nouveau eventually become standardized into the global repertoire perpetuated by YouTube and SoundCloud to name a few. The facilitation of music to engender premises which did not exist before awakens potentials that become possible for the first time. Awakening potentials substantiate the promise of new creations, relationships, beginnings, and imaginations.

Join me in moving from theory to practice by examining awakening potentials existent in the sharing and exploration of childhood sing-a-longs.

During childhood, we are taught short sing-a-longs connected to our identity, whether rooted in our culture, religion, or nationality, that support the story we come to know as our personal narrative. Though I could pick several childhood sing-a-longs as example, I will choose a personal childhood sing-a-long, the Hebrew song Yesh Li Pajamas, in English “I Have Pajamas.” The song goes like this:

Yesh li, yesh li pajamas.    
I have, I have pajamas.
Yesh li, yesh li pajamas.
I have, I have pajamas.
Yesh li pajamas be’cachol, lavan, cachol, lavan, cachol, lavan.
I have pajamas that are blue, white, blue, white, blue, white.
Cmo’ degel Israel. 
Like the flag of Israel.
 

Though simply written, the purpose of this childhood song is to create a sense of personal attachment and belonging to the State of Israel. The song is not expressly political in that there is no mention of borders or history, yet unquestioningly there is an underlying directive of nationality enshrouded in the colors blue and white.

Let’s examine another childhood song of a differing narrative.

I like the colors. I’m an artist child.
Painting with white, black, red. I like the colors.
Painting with blue, yellow, green. I’m an artist child.
What does “red” refer to? To the flowers. What does “green” refer to? To the trees. What does “white” refer to? To the snow.
I like, I like, I like… I like the colors. I’m an artist child.
Painting with white, black, red. I like the colors.
Painting with blue, yellow, green. I’m an artist child.
What does “blue” refer to? To the sky.
What does “black” refer to? To the goats.
What does “yellow” refer to? To the bananas.
Pink for flowers and silver for moons. Gold for sand and brown for mountains.
I’m painting the most beautiful painting with colors. It makes me feel happy. 
 

This childhood sing-a-long is a composition of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music headquartered in Ramallah. As I am not Palestinian, I cannot interpret the Palestinian narrative with the same exactness and truth as a Palestinian. If I may though, I would point out the many nature and agricultural references describing a landscape, a place, or a land. There is a recognition and connection to what could only be described as items present in a local scenery. From the flowers and the snow to the goats and mountains, the colors are what one would use to describe these items from their window, field, or garden.

We feel pride in our allegiances, which support our personal narrative and complete our desire for community. Deciding whether or not we share our allegiances or possessions with others outside our community is where conflict can arise. Is it a question of tolerance or compassion? Do we feel our survival or traditions are threatened by sharing that allegiance or possession?  It may be hard to even begin that discussion without the actualization of a platform, which did not exist before, where awakening potentials stir.

In the case of these two childhood songs each based in a differing narrative, where can awakening potentials stir? After introducing each song by singing or playing the melody on an instrument and then explaining  its lyrics and references, see what new songs can be created using elements originating from both sing-a-longs. What is similar? Both songs focus on using colors to identify or characterize symbols of nationality from flag to the description of land. What is different? The actual melodies of the songs are different, yet there still are musical elements in both that are similar. What would happen if you and your partner decided to change the rhythm, add a B section, use the traditional instruments of both cultures in its instrumentation, modulate, add another verse, etc. The possibilities are endless, and yet it is still possible to preserve original elements of both sing-a-longs.

After experimenting with all of the various ways both songs can coexist, separately yet together, modified yet the same, a platform which did not exist before can now support an even deeper discussion of why these childhood sing-a-longs are so important to each individual.  What do they signify of the past and what can they elude to in the future?

Decide for yourself and see what awakening potentials you can find that facilitate in actualizing what did not exist before, such as a new song, a greater understanding and trust, and even the beginning of a new friendship.

I attempt to cite all of the sources used in my writings and research as correctly as possible, so please adopt the same policy toward the works presented here and as well my own writings by citing this blog’s findings correctly. This blog is meant for sharing, not plagiarism. Thank you for your respect.

_______________________________________________________

1. Edward Said National Music Conservatory. Palestinian Children’s Songs. Edward Said National Music Conservatory, 2010. YouTube. 30 May 2010. Web. 31 May 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCtvoVsxteE&gt;.

2. Lederach, John Paul. The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

HEARTBEAT Releases Newest Song: Bukra Fi Mishmish

The Israeli and Palestinian youth of Heartbeat released their newest song Bukra fi Mishmish (Tomorrow When the Apricots Bloom), which is an idiom in Arabic for “when pigs fly.” It signifies when the impossible happens.

I am incredibly proud of the Israeli and Palestinian youth I worked and performed with during this song’s development and to see such a great final outcome. Mabrook! Mazal Tov!

Enjoy and check out the lyrics below!

Lyrics:
(Siwar)
Say what you want to say.
I just want to play.
Give me my violin.
Smile for a brighter day!

(Moody – in Arabic)
If there’s hope, the power to work, and art, then there’s life.
My lyrics can move mountains. There’s music and equality.
Without fear there’s no patience, ’cause you don’t know what you would lose.
(That means if you know what you’ll lose, you’ll get scared. Then you know you need to be patient.)
Tomorrow will be better! Try to create and believe, Yes YOU Can.
There’s the sun and its rays, yes there’s hope down here.
The moon and even a bit of light, there’s hope, even if it’s small.
An important step in your life is to hope.
Take your step towards change.
Make your anxiety disappear.
To be free, you have to liberate yourself!

(Guy – in Hebrew)
All day I’m looking through my window and I understand whatever is his is mine and whatever is mine is yours. We are supposed to even be brothers, but to me it seems that doesn’t really matter to you.
We’ll break down the walls, and take down the flags and then we’ll discover a world where everything is possible. When we understand that we’re all human beings then forever and ever we will be able to live.
We will be able to live!

BUKRA FI MISHMISH

A HEARTBEAT Production

Words and Music by:
Talia Ishai, Tahel Garion, Siwar Mansour,
Guy Gefen, Dekel Adin,
Moody Kablawi, Ami Yares,
Ziv Sobelman-Yamin, Hasan Nakhleh,
Yonatan Feiner

Performed by:
Guy Gefen: Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards,
Drum Programming, and Steel Drum
Moody Kablawi: Vocals and Claps
Siwar Mansour: Vocals and Violin
Dekel Adin: Recorder, Electric Guitar, Bass,
Saxophone, Vocals, Keyboards
Ami Yares: Oud
Tamer Omari: Darbukka, Drum Programming, and Claps
Aaron Shneyer: Drum Programming, Claps
Drums inspired by Ziv Sobelman-Yamin.

Directed and Produced by Aaron Shneyer

Additional music production by
Tamer Omari, Guy Gefen, and Dekel Adin

Special thanks to:
The Fund for Reconciliation, Tolerance, and Peace,
Noa Yammer, Tamer Omari,
Michal Gefen, Shoshana Gottesman,
Ami Yares, Jon Goldstein,
Am Kolel, Marcia and Ira Wagner,
Cheb Kammerer, Rob and EIleen Coltun,
Avi Salloway, Amitai Gross,
Luz Maria Uribe, Sarina Hahn, Jesse Kahn,
and all who have helped bring Heartbeat,
and specifically this song to life.

HEARTBEAT is an international community of musicians, educators, and students using music to build mutual understanding and transform conflict. Founded in 2007 under a grant from Fulbright and MTV, Heartbeat empowers Israeli and Palestinian musicians by creating opportunities and spaces for musicians from both sides to work together, hear each other, and amplify their voices to influence the world around them.
For more information, please visit: http://www.heartbeat.fm

Bukra Fi Mishmish

© 2012 Heartbeat | New Sound Foundation, Inc.

One Beat, With the Right to Many Narratives

“Art is not an option, it’s a right. That is what I’m working to change here” (El Nabawi).

Quoted in a recent article in thedailynewsegypt.com, Tony Kaldas, Egyptian singer and 2012 nominee for Music Prize in Time for Peace Music & Film Festival, begs into question the bounds of art as a societal change agent through the self-expression of narratives. At what point does the self-expression of the individual chafe against the status quo of the familiar in a community or government, and at what point does community or government infringe on the individual’s right to self-expression? How can music play a role in this relationship by serving as a medium of common ground for government, community, and the individual to explore the right to self expression of narrative(s)?

Based upon his artistry intertwined with humanitarian messages, Kaldas received the nomination for his song, “Anta Akhy (You are my brother).”  The song awakens the lyrics of famed poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran with Kaldas’s warm melodies.

Kaldas’s quote is one embedded with the Egyptian cultural scene in mind. By challenging the concept of religious observance utilized in society to construct one politically enforced truth,  the words of Gibran sung with Kaldas’s sweet voice unveil religion bringing those of different faiths closer in the moments of Egypt’s dire stand for justice. Each narrative highlighted in the song describes the varied practices of bowing in the mosque, praying in the church, and kneeling in the temple coalesced into a vision of one communal future.

     You are my brother and I love you.
     Both of us are sons of a single, universal, and sacred Spirit.
     For we are prisoners of the same body, fashioned from the same clay.
     You are my companion on the byways of life.
     You are my brother and I am in love with you brother.
     I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple,
     pray in your church. (Gibran)
 

You may say that Kaldas is an optimist, a little drop of water in a big ocean full of uncontrollable elements. On the other hand, who empowered Kaldas to use the arts to foster transformational change? It is Khalil Gibran in expressing his right to the art of words. Thus, we can see that even a drop of water can produce ripples of change affecting the entire surrounding area. A successful pro-social effect is not stagnant; it must be fluid, connecting many. Music in its multiple forms can serve as a medium for this transformational change.

Let’s take this discussion to the next level. Instead of a singular stream of change, imagine many young musician activists from throughout the world joining in one place to create new music built upon each others’ narratives and shared ideals for a better world?

OneBeat, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs recent partnership initiative with Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation, will foster an international music exchange encounter in the U.S. consisting of youth musicians (ages 19-35) from all over the world this September 2012. Lasting a total of 4-weeks, OneBeat will begin with a two-week residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida where the youth musician participants will “write, produce, and perform original music, and develop ways that music can make a positive impact on our local and global communities” (OneBeat). The last two-weeks will consist of a tour along the east coast from Florida to New York City. Besides public concerts, much of the citizen diplomacy element will be instilled by engaging workshops lead by the youth musician participants at cultural community centers along the way.

Sounding like “The Survivor” of all music experiences, sans being voted off the island or perhaps the “Musician Peace Corp” (which might just be the same thing according to some), what is required to make this initiative successful? How will the individual from Kyrgyzstan find his or her right to voice and narrative alongside individuals from Haiti, Hong Kong, Russia, the Czech Republic, Iraq, Panama, Mozambique, amongst  32 other nations? In order for participants to create a pro-social effect in American communities, and yet as well within the communities of their birth country, how and where should the drop of water fall into the big ocean? Advantageous, you ask? Indeed. None the less, success is possible beyond a doubt.

As in any diplomatic venture, creating an environment with a level playing field for each individual to express his or her narrative is crucial. Much like the curriculum of a music intervention program that empowers youth and transforms conflict, the State Department and Found Sound Nation will need to configure into OneBeat an infrastructure that challenges the youth musician participants to push beyond the familiar. The end goal cannot be to simply agree with the status quo, without question or exploration. Searching for the fine lines where dissonance transforms to consonance and consonance transforms to dissonance must be discovered musically and discussed interactively.

Here are 10 suggestions, according to week, to assist OneBeat in producing “a musical journey like no other” (OneBeat). Each suggestion is a summarized statement originating from an in depth curriculum (to access the entire curriculum, please contact me). Though not addressed in the descriptions below, the use of social media is an important facet that should be implemented for PR, networking, and communication.

Week 1

The purpose of the Week 1 is to:

  • Create a safe space for the youth musician participants to learn more about each others’ backgrounds and culture by listening to participants’ narratives.
  • Express personal ambitions, needs, and fears attributing from their narrative.
  • Adopt an interactive process of transforming initiatives that will help the group bond, exchange musical ideas, and converse pertinent social-action issues.

1. Warm Beginnings

Consider all of the possibilities to foster warm beginnings. This might be in the form of icebreakers, eurythmics, group dynamics, jam session, etc. Even one smile is contagious.

2. Partner When Composing the Social Agreement

Every participant must feel comfortable in expressing his or her voice musically and in group dialogue. By agreeing upon a “social contract” written in conjunction with the youth musician participants, every person is included in deciding the retreat’s immediate/long-term goals and methods of engagement. Producing a social agreement is crucial, yet will only prove fruitful if its contents embody the vision of the retreat elaborated by the participants.

3. Explore. Listen. Improvise. Share.

Remember the activity “show- and-tell” from your childhood? Though you may be older, this exercise is without shelf-life. This exercise can provide the perfect opportunity for each participant to introduce their narratives from ethnic and religious allegiances to social issues they care about. In addition, much of this could be discussed in dialogue groups under adherence to the social agreement. I suggest to take this exercise beyond dialogue by including a musical component as well to substantiate the dialogue. This could be in the form of sharing the melodies of one’s culture, the sounds of one’s favorite composer or band, tributes to artists most inspirational, amongst many other creative possibilities. The inclusion of a jam session would also be great.

Week 2

The purpose of Week 2 is to:

  • Build upon the exercises of Week 1.
  • Initiate intensive song writing and rehearsal.
  • Reflect upon the learning experiences thus far to add depth to writing songs and rehearsing.
  • Participate in masterclasses.

4. Adventures in Intensive Song Writing & Rehearsals

There are so many great song writing exercises that provide bonding opportunities, further “out-of-the-box” thinking, and not to mention, are a lot of fun. Once a song is drafted, rehearsing is necessary for accuracy and testing musical ideas. Though musicians may groan at the prospect of rehearsal, it is a repetitive bonding experience that can deepen relationships.

5. Round Table Discussions: Reflections Thus Far of Experience & Its Meaning

Providing time for reflection and group dialogue is essential for such an intensive experience. Participants will need space to digest the new realities they have created, which may be very different from what would usually occur in their birth country. To facilitate this process, I also suggest that each participant consider writing in a small journal to document and express their personal feelings and ideas.

6. Masterclass: Learn From Artists in the Field of Music Intervention & Performance

Masterclasses presume several goals in this case. One aspect is for the youth musician participants to observe well-known artists on stage in the moment. Experiential learning is important in music performance. Secondly, masterclasses provide a great opportunity for performance-practice and feedback from the guest artists and peers. This is also standard music performance teaching, and creates the youth empowerment attribute of putting participants “on edge” to produce an exhilarating outcome in front of their peers.

Week 3 & Week 4

Week 3 and Week 4 both focus on the tour, including public performances and workshops.

7. Grassroots in Action, With the Involvement of “Top-Down” Connectors

The performances and workshops are valuable products of the retreat. In planning, the organizers must strive to make these appearances highly accessible to all communities, and especially those represented amongst the participants. Grassroots, or bottom-up efforts, are meant to invigorate the people by involving them in the act of social change. The rural areas must not be forgotten. None the less, dignitaries, elected governmental officials, and key “top-down” connectors must be involved in a strategic way as well. Ask the question, “Who is our target public(s)?” and from there, set a date and a place for each event, with who to invite in mind.

8. Engage the Audience/Workshop Participants via Interactive Elements

The purpose of the concerts and workshops are not merely for an audience to listen to the presentation and then go home. Both of these community outreach events must be interactive! In other words, the transfer of information should not flow one way, but rather in both directions as in a musical dialogue. Additionally, explain how and why music can be used as a tool for social activism in reference to the newly premiered music written during the retreat, which could add another level of depth to the entire experience. Lastly, include interactive elements, where the audience can join the music-making as well. This might entail requesting audience feedback during the performance, using eurthymics during a workshop to describe a point, utilize a few of the short exercises from the retreat, live-streaming of both productions for watching-parties locally and internationally, etc.

It is also important to consider who is invited to decipher what type of interactive elements are required. For example, specifically invite the music educators of music intervention programs and their students to attend a workshop. Automatically, you know which types of exercises would be helpful for this group and skill level. It might be a good idea to distinguish which exercises are for a beginners group, advanced group, or even at a level the general public can grasp. As a general rule, come prepared with more, than less.

9. Personalize the Message

Though personalizing the message may sound hokey, this is how many audiences will connect with such an unusual project as OneBeat. Similarly to the performed music, bring light to the narratives that exist within the group of youth musician participants. Engender compassion, empathize, and humanize.

10. “Glocal”: Think Globally, Act Locally

After the retreat and tour end, the youth participants may feel like an entire world has been taken away from them as they return to their normal lives. This feeling can be devastating, without suggestion of how to encourage the same creativity and excitement created during OneBeat. Truthfully, the drive for social activism instilled by OneBeat is only part A of the bigger composition. What about part B, C, A1, or leaving the exposition entirely to enter the development? Like in peace education, this type of conflict transformation is successful via long-term goals, rather than short. Luckily, the Internet provides plenty of possibilities to continue the intercultural music exchange, despite borders and time zones. It would be great if OneBeat developed material that addressed the ways the youth participants can continue to share ideas, produce music together from afar, and coordinate local discussions and performances pertaining to their experience with OneBeat. The imparting of one’s narrative interactively through music can go a long way.

Good luck to the many young musicians across the globe auditioning for OneBeat. Remember, even the smallest drop of water will create a ripple effect transforming its surroundings. Every narrative counts; every beat counts. It is your right!

FYI: For more in depth explanation of each suggestion, e-mail me (shoshibee@gmail.com) with your comments, suggestions, and questions any time!

I attempt to cite all of the sources used in my writings and research as correctly as possible, so please adopt the same policy toward the works presented here and as well my own writings by citing this blog’s findings correctly. This blog is meant for sharing, not plagiarism. Thank you for your respect.

_______________________________________________________

1. El Nabawi, Maha. “For Tony Kaldas, ‘art is not an option, it’s a right'”Thedailynewsegypt.com. International Herald Tribune, 06 Feb. 2012. Web. 08 Feb. 2012. <http://www.thedailynewsegypt.com/music/for-tony-kaldas-art-is-not-an-option-its-a-right.html&gt;.

2. Gibran, Khalil. “The Voice of the Poet.” 4umi.com. 4umi.com. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. <http://4umi.com/gibran/vision/5&gt;.

3. U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affiars. “OneBeat.”About. U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affiars. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. <http://1beat.org/&gt;.

Ignite the Light: The Jam Session

Imagine, it’s your first day meeting them. You remember the stories told in your childhood that taught you to never trust them. When passing in the street, you were strangers. While buying from the same grocery store, you were still strangers. From your birth in the same hospitals until this very moment, you were still strangers.

But here as youth, you both are finally in the same room face to face with only instruments and voices of all kinds in hand to distinguish one band member from another. No script is available. A count down of, “a one, a two; a one, two, three” signals it’s time to jump in. Sounds melt and mold together, soon to create a semblance of unified ideas. You improvise a line of music in the jam, and to your surprise, so can they, in fact, quite well. A smile appears on your face as you think to yourself, “Let’s see what else they can do. Let’s see what else we can do.”

Welcome back from the daydream! Though you were about to have the time of your life, alas I bring you back to reality to discuss further the power of: The Jam Session.

There is much significance in utilizing jam sessions as an exercise in music intervention programs. In my opinion, a “jam session” cannot be defined in one way, since every jam session holds its own purpose. A jam session could:

  • explore a certain sound, timbre, or feeling
  • search for the next section of a song
  • test the limits of an already established song
  • practice the technique of improvisation
  • challenge musicians by putting them “on edge” to produce new musical ideas on the spot
  • create a bonding experience to connect individuals

One could say that jamming has a place in the creation of most genres of music at least at some point. One genre in particular that places much importance in jam sessions is none other than jazz.

In late January, the importance of jam sessions was brought to light by the current “The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad” program’s resident musical group while on tour in Zimbabwe. Stated by drummer and band leader, Michael Raynor, of The Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet,

“To a large extent, the greatest musicians in this music [jazz] learned how to play simply by playing with other great musicians, getting on the band stage and learning right on the spot, and being in there, the atmosphere, hearing players that maybe already know how to play and then stepping up and trying to play what you have learned so far, right in that setting.” (The Zimbabwean)

The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program is co-organized by the U.S. Department of State and Jazz at Lincoln Center “to share America’s unique contribution to the world of music and to promote cross-cultural understanding and exchange among nations worldwide.” (The Rhythm Road) Essentially, the U.S. State Department is employing music intervention techniques that empower youth and transform conflict as a diplomatic track.

Interestingly enough, this format of outreach combines several tracks of diplomacy. At the top level, there is Track I Diplomacy: government-to-government interaction. At the grassroots level, there is Track II diplomacy: informal interactions by unofficial actors of civil society. In this case, the U.S. State Department and Zimbabwean government of Track I diplomacy are supporting citizen diplomacy  by using The Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet as “cultural ambassadors” of Track II diplomacy.

Why did The Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet choose jam sessions, besides the inherent importance of jam sessions in jazz, for their workshops with Zimbabwean youth? What are the benefits of using jam sessions in a music intervention setting?

For a music intervention program to succeed, the youth participants must be “put on edge” to deliver an accountable product in front of their peers and family. This is why much emphasis is placed on the importance of providing frequent performance opportunities, besides the essential purpose of performance in music. Not only must youth participants feel challenged by the responsibility of producing an exhilarating outcome when placed in front of peers and family, but as well consider what is required to plan that success. Am I improving in my daily practicing? How can I implement the instruction from my teachers? Do I feel good about the sound I’m producing? What can I do to improve my ensemble while playing/singing/rapping? How do I feel about my fellow musicians? These questions must be identified and asked. Sometimes the answers are not fully discovered until the performance.

This is where jam sessions can serve the benefits of in-the-moment, interactive music making. In the same fashion as a performance, jam sessions will put youth participants “on edge” to produce an accountable product on the spot, while flexing their creativity.When applied in a setting of conflict transformation, the results are of high-potential  with the ability to ignite further engagement and reconciliation. Many youth involved in peace education who have participated in a jam session identify the experience as memorable, enlivening, meaningful, and of course, a whole lot of fun! They speak of an energy created immediately upon playing music together, and the surprise of how easy it is to musically interact with the “other”. By the end of the jam session, the conflict’s uneven plain dividing society is muted in comparison to an established space of equality. Subsequently, an individual is not initially recognized with the prescribed title of ‘Type A’ or ‘Type B’, but rather entrusted with the same inalienable humanistic needs for security and prosperity.

Want to know more about the Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet and their travels? Check out their blog: http://michaelraynor.net/dlmr4/
_______________________________________________________

1. “Commonly Used Terms.” Search for Common Ground. Search for Common Ground. Web. 06 Feb. 2012. <http://www.sfcg.org/resources/resources_terms.html&gt;.

2. “Letter from Jazz at Lincoln Center.” The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad. Jazz at Lincoln Center. Web. 02 Feb. 2012. <http://jalc.org/theroad/about_letterfromjalc.asp&gt;.

3. Staff Reporter. “Jam Sessions a Big Part of Jazz Education: U.S. Jazz Quartet.” The Zimbabwean. Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwea, 30 Jan. 2012. Web. 31 Jan. 2012. <http://www.thezimbabwean.co.uk/entertainment/music-and-dance/55912/jam-sessions-a-big-part.html?utm_source=thezim&utm_medium=homepage&utm_campaign=latestarticles&gt;.