Bridging Musical Worlds: An Assessment of Music Workshops Abroad

October 1, 2002

Steven Cornelius, David Harnish, Mary Natvig, Jason Dooley, Melissa Jungers


Introduction (Cornelius, Harnish)

The traditional classroom setting offers any number of organizational benefits. By successfully managing that environment, teachers control subject matter and pace of learning. Students, too, are comfortable with the familiar. They understand what is expected and behave accordingly.

But what happens if the walls are torn down and, as a new environment pours in, those well-understood rules are bent, even discarded? That is the central question that drives this paper. We look to explore the ways in which teachers teach and students learn about music and its attendant culture when the non-Western world becomes their classroom.

In a sense, hands-on direct experience is the ideal to which most college music teaching is geared. Our theory students sight sing and work out counterpoint exercises; instrumentalists and vocalists perform in ensembles and spend added hours in daily practice. Outside the academic curriculum students engage in different sorts of immersions at summer music camps and festivals.

There are, of course, a number of "alternative" educational environments available beyond the traditional classroom. CMS-sponsored workshops at San Diego State University and the New England Conservatory of Music have successfully run for nearly a decade. Colorado College and University of Connecticut go a step further and hold programs on Native American reservations. A great many study-abroad programs exist that enable American students to take classes at sister institutions.

Fung envisions eight types of musical experience that an educator can present to learners.1 In decreasing levels of interaction these are: 1) be-there-and-do-it, 2) be-there, 3) do-it-someplace-else, 4) multimedia, 5) attending a live concert, 6) listening to a recording, 7) viewing a relevant photo, object, or music notation, and 8) verbalization. Of these, the first two (and perhaps no. 5) occur in the primary setting; the others are more apt to occur in the classroom. Be-there-and-do-it not only engages the body and mind in actively absorbing and playing the music, it also submerges students in everything surrounding the music—the total social and cultural context.

For the past ten years, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) has sponsored four-week arts-focused workshops in Ghana and Bali, Indonesia. Alternating annually between the two countries, to date over 200 students have participated. While the workshops originally concentrated on music and dance, the focus has gradually broadened to include visual arts. The enrollment profile is diverse. We recruit strongly within BGSU's College of Musical Arts. Yet this group is normally outnumbered by the aggregate from other disciplines, particularly art, with lower enrollment from dance and a variety of non-arts fields. Students from other universities frequently participate as well, particularly in the Bali workshop.

The workshops center on direct experience and students learn through active participation: the be-there-and-do-it approach. These workshops are not "culture study" groups as much as they are "culture experience" groups; students are not prepared to truly "study" as they have little background or knowledge of either culture. Our workshops also differ from most other BGSU study-abroad programs—and from the majority of study-abroad programs nationwide—in that classes are not affiliated with overseas parallel institutions. Our programs, set apart from and unmediated by the institutional environments in Bali and Ghana, emphasize immersion and direct cultural participation.

Though the workshop duration is less than one month, a number of realizations—musical and other—occur within each individual. Ghana and Bali are both vibrant, artistic cultures, and students are sometimes overwhelmed by the cultural stimuli that affect their every sense. Certain experiences, such as witnessing fierce trance dancing or animal sacrifice, may stimulate the more intuitive to call into question the central tenants upon which they have thus far built their lives. Such intense experiences are sometimes called "disequilibrating" and provide opportunities for both cognitive and emotional development.2

Students become immersed in their studies with local masters in music, dance and/or visual arts, and often study up to six hours daily. They also tour various cultural or historical centers, an exercise that helps round out knowledge while providing moments for reflection on the other aspects of their experience.

Pre-departure seminars and readings help prepare students for what is to come, though some students report that the words pale in comparison to confronting the culture directly. For our music graduate students, the trip is framed as a quick and intense introduction to fieldwork. Though these students also engage in intensive studies, they are expected to pursue additional interests. For the generalists, the trips function mostly as an on-site class in world music in which the simple experience of immersion within another musical/cultural system is a goal in itself.

Students learn to play and dance, but for many, that knowledge is quickly forgotten. More importantly, they learn to face their fears, and perhaps their prejudices, while immersed within an alien culture. Fung calls such transformations "mind-opening through music,"3 while Sarles describes similar "cognitive shifts" that expand emic and etic knowledge and enable cross-cultural and personal understanding.4

Two things become clear to virtually every student. First, they arrive in the country with far more material wealth than their teachers. This experience extends to the marketplace, where vendors can be highly aggressive. Strangers, even children, may ask for money or gifts. Second, Balinese and Ghanaian daily life is centered around ritual to a degree rarely seen in the United States. In the mix, music sometimes becomes an afterthought amongst larger realizations concerning poverty and religious diversity.

We take students knowing that the experience carries an emotional risk. Most will undergo many challenging and unforgettable moments. In the end, we hope that these experiences will help them to be more creative—to think out of the box, if you will—in their future professional and personal lives. Admittedly, these goals are rather amorphous, but they are designed to accommodate the great variety of experiential learning we hope to generate.

Workshops are fashioned to confront the generally homogenous backgrounds of our students and help move these young people towards a more sensitive and multi-dimensional view of the world around them. Though many can learn and extrapolate effectively within the classroom environment, we agree with Jurasek that the vast majority of our students only apprehend the world monoculturally "with a view that is bound and limited."5 Thus we advocate for international study to provide opportunities to acquire an intercultural sensitivity, a be-there-and-do-it skill development, and a more enlightened reflexivity. We ask students to confront their own personal histories and ethnicities, engage their own cultural biases and identities, and creatively and inclusively reform their fundamental understandings of the human condition. Regardless the quality of teaching, these challenges could neither be fully engaged in the classroom nor in summer music workshops.

No doubt, such ideals sound rather grand for a month-long workshop focussing on the arts. Yet, even if our program fails to reach such heights we know that the residencies provide each and every student with a unique set of experiences and realizations. Most of these are positive; some are negative. All, once well digested, produce artistic, intellectual and spiritual growth. Through their encounters with music, dance and art, students gain new competency and flexibility. Response papers as well as informal discussions held years later suggest that these attributes also flow richly into other areas of students' lives.

In the short papers that follow—written by three faculty members (two ethnomusicologists, one musicologist), a master's student in ethnomusicology, and an undergraduate psychology major/music minor (both students are currently in doctoral programs)—the authors frame aspects of the workshop experience that they found particularly compelling, and address the challenges of learning outside of the American academy environment.


It's Just Like National Geographic: The Ghana Workshop6 (Cornelius)

The students, slathered in sunscreen, sit together shirtless under the tropical May sun feeling awkward about both who and where they are. In front of them Ewe musicians and dancers from the Yeve cult continue their ceremony. Only occasionally do the dancers give any outward acknowledgement of their visitors. And so it goes for some six hours. With cameras and tape recorders at the ready, students slowly fry both skin and brains as they attempt to capture and digest whatever precious moments strike their fancy.

There is plenty to take in; powerful rhythms, beautiful costumes, and bodies locked in perfect rhythmic motion. Animals are paraded across the dance area, first alive, later decapitated. Bare-breasted women dance gracefully then suddenly convulse in the throws of fierce possession trances.

"It's just like National Geographic," a student whispers in my ear.

After some hours we too are invited to dance. Not everyone is up for it, but those who are must first go inside the temple to seek permission from the head priestess. As we enter notice is made of a large container of blood near the entrance. As we shuffle past, a senior sociology major pales.

Asking me what it is, I answer, "Missionary."

My answer, built on Hollywood's conception of the primitive and inspired by a similar comic line from Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, misses the mark. He understands neither reference and, until I assure him that I was making a joke, looks ready to hurl himself through the exit.

It wasn't until we were all safe in our compound that evening that I told the students the genesis of the afternoon's ceremony. It had been held in honor of a man who, a few days earlier, had died of rabies.

The year was 1994 and this was the first time I had tried to take a group of students abroad. What were we going to accomplish? Frankly, I wasn't sure, but we were certainly off to a colorful beginning.

Forty-eight hours earlier these 11 students—two who had never before traveled by plane, ten who had never before left the United States—were safe and comfortable in Northwest Ohio. Now, still jet-lagged, they were in Kopeyia, a Ghanaian village with an abundance of mad dogs, animal sacrifice, and spirit possession, but neither electricity nor running water. Nothing I had said before leaving the United States had prepared them for this.

Perhaps nothing could have.

Today as I ready for our fifth Ghana workshop (May 2002) I am still not sure how to prepare. Yes, the package has been stream-lined; travel is easier, accommodations offer fewer surprises, standard activities pretty much run themselves. But while I can plan the physical experience, the way in which students internally process that experience remains out of my control.

During the past four trips I have watched the most introverted personalities, students who barely said more than their names during the first week of the trip, come out of their shells and become, at least for their last days or weeks in Ghana, true givers and ideal educators. Others have gone in the opposite direction, virtually quarantining themselves away in their rooms as if they might lose their soul to the African sun.

Certainly, there is reason for fear. Ghana, after all, easily overflows the emotional and spiritual boundaries within which most Americans live. How, for example, as one student wrote after visiting the central outdoor market in the Asanti capital of Kumasi, does one deal with the composite smell of "traffic five inches away, street vendors, raw sewage, diesel fuel, food, fresh and old urine, dead fish, rotting vegetation, fires, and dust?" Is it possible to process so much experience at one time? What happens to the mental and emotional circuits when the other four senses are added in?

When discussing their first music and dance lessons, students use words like "noise" and "chaos" to describe the experience. And each takes a unique approach towards unraveling the material. An art major begins to understand musical energy by "making fast sketches." As the workshop progresses she realizes that when patiently observed, the initial bedlam of Ghanaian musical and visual expression "breaks into logical overlapping patterns." Hers is a brilliant, and correct, insight. Best of all, she discovers it by experience rather than being told.

Every student leaves Ohio with strong expectations and hopes of some sort of artistic, intellectual, or spiritual breakthrough. Sometimes they are met; sometimes they are not. One African-American, convinced he has found his ancestors, brings a bag full of soil back with him to America. Another African-American concludes in his post-workshop response paper that, "the Africans are just like us (African-Americans)." He feels as if he has "known the natives forever" but says he does not "completely understand" when a young African man tells him "of white men being evil" and of Ghanaians having to "think backwards" so that the whites will not kill them.

An African-American woman expects similar insider experiences and writes of hoping to "talk to the African women, of sitting in their homes, laughing about our similarities, learning from each other." Instead, disturbed by her experience with sexually aggressive African men and reserved African women, she dwells on difference and pain. As for her white American colleagues, they offer little comfort at this crucial time. After all, "They didn't grow up with the legacy that I and many other African-Americans did. Their grandfathers did not have to run from their home state under the cover of darkness to avoid a possible lynching."

Indeed, while some students find each other, others lose not just each other but even themselves during the trip. Some complain that their colleagues are greedy, spoiled by Western comforts, and culturally insensitive. Others find solace in the group and relief therein from being "constantly stared at."

On visiting the slave castles at Cape Coast students attempt to make peace with human suffering and wickedness. One student, emotionally unable even to enter the second slave castle we visit, writes of "having touched with my hands and feet the place where unbelievable journeys of pain and evil began."

For all of us, the Ghana workshop presents an opportunity for cultural and spiritual growth. Ostensibly, this workshop is supposed to teach students about music and art. This it does. But frankly, most students forget the rhythms and dance moves within a few weeks of returning home.

Such forgetfulness, it seems to me, is of little consequence. Far more important and enduring is each student's experience of being immersed within a foreign culture. In the end, despite the obvious physical and social movement outwards into the unknown, the Ghana workshop is about the personal. The workshop is about becoming aware of, and ultimately taking responsibility for, one's own inner life.


Making Sense of Chaos in "Paradise:" The Bali Workshop7 (Harnish)

After being in Bali one week, a student on the 1999 workshop suddenly blurted out, "Look at those tourists over there! They're wearing shorts, and this is a temple!" Other students immediately voiced agreement that shorts were inappropriate. I was startled. A week earlier, they themselves might have worn shorts into the temple. This statement showed a sudden maturity and cultural sensitivity, and demonstrated how fast students can learn in a new environment.

I have led three groups to Bali (1997, 1999, 2001) and moments like the above remind me that it is well worth the effort.8 Upon arrival, students are like fish out of water, and I see the look of "WOW" on their faces. Several student papers note the immediate "sensory overload;" one student stated, "My eyes could not process everything fast enough to my brainI wanted to bottle every single sight!" Others, however, soon confront a sobering moment—an "overwhelming, helpless feeling of acute culture shock"—when they don't understand and have no control over a situation.

Pre- and on-site orientations are ineffective in dealing with these moments. As one student suggested, nothing "could have prepared a first-time visitor from the West for the incredible deluge of cultural exposure that was in store for us." Orientations help students organize themselves and learn some appropriate contextual behavior fairly quickly. More difficult is developing a flexibility to ideas of time, person, and space, as well as a tolerance of ambiguity. Students are uncertain of expectations whenever they're dealing with teachers, eating in restaurants, shopping, or taking local transportation. Many also have difficulty facing the reality that they stand out. One wrote, "I felt ashamed of being an AmericanIt was unusual to be the minority." For most students, the entire workshop experience features several stages of anxiety that eventually resolve.

When we begin to study gamelan with musician Wayan Suweca, several become frustrated. Though Suweca is fluent in English he says little, does not analyze the music, and prefers to play a piece straight through at tempo as long as possible while showing individuals their parts. Most lose their parts over and over again; many have trouble adapting to this teaching style and ask me to mediate between them and Suweca so that they can learn the music. A few have trouble being weaned off notation and forced to use their ears; several experience "self-dissatisfaction." Learning the music, being able to really play it, is a main concern of many students. I believe that mastering their part (or a dance move, or completing an artwork) is one way in which students begin to make sense of their experience, to create order from chaos. After finishing his first mask, one art student remarked, "I felt like I had taken over the world!"

I am also asked to mediate between students and Bali for the first week or so as students struggle to understand what they see (daily rituals, temple festivals, cremations, etc.) and attempt to avoid "acute culture shock." By the last week, however, they have learned and adapted and I am hardly needed. Student relationships with me also change as their knowledge grows and they can engage Balinese arts, artists and individuals directly without mediation. I become less relevant.

For cultural performances like temple festivals and cremations, students purchase or rent ritual dress, which seems to give them a sense of being part of the community. In 2001, we performed music and dance at a few temple festivals. Despite being laughed at almost incessantly by an appreciative Balinese audience, student papers report that they gained a stronger sense of participating and belonging; walls of separation had collapsed.

At one of these festivals, I discovered that my desire for direct student participation had limits. During an intense trance dance, one of the entranced grabbed a student and tried to get him to thrust a dagger into a witch character. Though the student and I successfully prevented that from happening (it took all of our collective strength), this event, along with more trance dancing the next night that featured the eating of live chickens, forced students to deal with their experiences—to again make sense of chaos. One student stated "I went from a period of thinking 'make it stop' to thinking 'none of us will ever be the same after this.'" Another, describing the live chicken-eating trance, described his "shock" and "horror" but then his relief when he was told by our Balinese host that these events are very rare. The student needed to know that neither the world nor Bali had gone amok; these words allowed him to process and compartmentalize the experience. But he will never forget it.

Tourism is a major industry in Bali, and students are assumed to be tourists. Some are repelled by this notion since tourists "require constant attention and beer" and are seemingly "mindless mass consumers." Students seek an alternative identity and music and the arts supply it. Once students respond to villagers that they're in Bali to study, they are treated differently and feel a sense of legitimacy. One said that she was then "always greeted with a big, bright smileI was accepted and wanted."

Students generally have "breakthrough realizations"—sudden creative bursts of insight that often concern spirituality or the nature of the arts or the world. One student, after seeing the simplicity of Balinese life, became disgusted with the wasteful habits of Americans; another proclaimed tourism a form of neocolonialism; while a dance major, after witnessing Balinese dance in context, suddenly blurted out "I like modern dance but it doesn't have any function."9 These realizations, I believe, fit the identity of the particular student. Most music education students, for instance, naturally note the role of children or how ingrained music is to Balinese culture, and then relent that they have to "fight so hard to convince the American political public about the importance of music." Perhaps the workshops allow students to become more of who they already are or have the potential to become.

Group dynamics impact student learning. Some are not group-oriented learners; others are emboldened within the group. My most fulfilling reward as a teacher is watching them grow increasingly confident and competent in their own ways. I have noticed that many of the students share an innate understanding and have a certain bond after returning home. They can rekindle or re-imagine their experiences here.

On our last night in Bali, the students perform for all their teachers and other invited guests. These performances provide another experience of achievement over what had been chaos. The senior ethnomusicologist Mantle Hood attended our 2001 performance and was gushing with approval; this gave further validation to the students. I am convinced that when students leave Bali the next day, they have a new sense of identity, new insight on life, and an enhanced musicality. They are not the same people they were when they left to go to Bali.

This "change" can be painful when returning to America as it often results in re-entry culture shock. Most report that loved ones cannot relate to or understand their experiences. One says that after trying to explain his experiences that friends look at him like, "Is this guy nuts?" Another's family keeps asking her if she is just "making up stories." These experiences make some students feel marginalized in their own homes and communities, but I have observed that time soon returns them to their routines and former relationships still changed and more culturally sensitive but intact and able to operate normally.

In making sense of differences, students often describe Bali as a sort of communal, artistic paradise; it is easy to romanticize Bali and much literature is devoted to attesting to the "balance" and "harmony" of Balinese culture. Such ideas ignore intense experiences like trance dancing, but they are ways to distance and make sense of chaos. Most students see Balinese music, art, life, and religion as an interwoven whole, and this gives them pause for reflections on life in America.

By having to resolve chaos and anxiety through direct participation, students really earn their knowledge and realizations and are (at least temporarily) transformed.10 I believe that they will select the most profound or meaningful moments of their experiences to hold onto because these have taught them something that they wish to preserve, something that feeds directly into their identities. If we take the Balinese adage that once a piece of music has really "entered" you that you can always recall it and apply that here, we can expect that some aspects of their experiences will manifest in later moments of life.

As the humanities doctrine states, the more you know the other, the more you know yourself. One student concluded that she ultimately learned "more about myself and about what I am made of and of what it truly means to be me." Students, I believe, confront, get to know, and absorb part of an "other" in Bali, as they gain a greater understanding of themselves, their lives, and their culture.


"Mom" Goes To Ghana And Bali (Natvig)

I was asked to write about our workshops from my particular perspective as a female faculty member who has accompanied the groups for my own enrichment. Since I am a traditionally trained musicologist who specializes in 15th century sacred music, my participation in the Ghana and Bali workshops departed radically from my previous summer archival trips to Europe.

My extended family, who wonders why I even go to ethnic restaurants, was aghast at my plans to spend three weeks in Africa. I worried a bit myself, but instinctively knew that I was embarking on a journey of the soul that would last far longer than the duration of the workshop. So, loaded down with baggage both literal and psychic, I went to a tiny village in West Africa with no electricity, no running water, no doctors, free range goats, chickens, rabid dogs, outdoor sewage, flies, mosquitoes, strange food, and people who wanted to touch my pale skin and blond hair and who took delight in pinching my ample hips and arms. (I received multiple marriage proposals in Ghana; alas it was never true love, just American physical largess.)

Just like me, our students had to negotiate the differences of the cultural milieu. They generally divided into three groups: those who took to the culture like ducks to water (usually these were students who were marginalized in one way or another at home), those who struggled in frustration for a few days, gradually gaining insight and peace of mind (the overachievers and Type-A personalities), and those who were either so numb or oblivious that they didn't seem to interact at all with what was happening around them. Most of the latter recovered at some point, eventually managing successfully and negotiating his/her own transformation.

A particularly irritating student appeared to remain entirely unaffected by her experience in the workshop and on the plane home remarked, "I don't think I learned anything on this trip." Although her comment was incredible, judging by her behavior I was inclined to agree with her. Over the next year, however, I observed this student in the halls of the music building and whether she knew it or not, she did change. She became far more open, less critical, more self-assured yet less arrogant. Her epiphany occurred slowly and perhaps without her knowing, but the trip clearly affected her and she talks about her time in the workshop now with great insight. I was privy to many of the personal transformations that occurred during the trips because of my acquired position as "mom" (a female faculty member—who wouldn't grade the papers—who was older than the students, but apparently not quite too old to trust). Furthermore, even though they made fun of me for bringing such heavy suitcases, I was the one who had the extra bandaids, the thermometer, and a lifetime supply of immodium. When the students knocked on my door for an aspirin, they often stayed to chat. Several students opened up to me about nightmares from their pasts, and I saw these students gradually break with those pasts and gain confidence during the workshops. Sometimes a person has to run far away in order to find out what she can carry with her and what she can leave behind.

One story concerns a young man who had been in my Medieval/Renaissance music survey only weeks before our trip to Ghana. For an entire semester he sat in the back of class, baseball cap perched on his head; he never participated and never met my eye when I said hello. This was the student who contracted malaria during the last few days of our journey. He was in complete misery and from the look on his face during our grueling ten hour drive from Tamale to Accra, I suspect he would rather have died than spend one more minute in that burning hot, rickety van. Once at the hotel, "mom" entered his room with a cold washcloth and wiped his face, arms, and legs. I talked to him softly and as I told him how sorry I was that he was sick, two big tears streamed down his cheeks. And so the boy who never spoke to me became a man who met my eye, and graciously offered to get me a coke and bite to eat during our layover in Amsterdam. He graduated a year after our trip and now directs a high school band in a small Ohio town. And he also teaches them African drumming and dance.

One of our participants on the Bali workshop was the noted ethnomusicologist, Ellen Koskoff, who had been the professor in college and graduate school that introduced me to world music. For me, this was a profound and touching experience. So in Bali, just as my students were learning and struggling alongside me, I was learning beside my beloved teacher, who was also learning and struggling. When I wasn't annoying her, and everyone else, by tales of how much more difficult Africa had been than Bali, we talked for long hours, laughed at ourselves and each other, and learned so much together, just as I learned from my students and my students from me. And we all changed by confronting ourselves and facing a culture that was different from our own.

I realize that I haven't written a word about the music, which was, of course, pervasive, integrated into the fabric of both cultures and by extension, both workshops. The sound of distant drums or gamelans in the sweltering night air and even the crickets, the birds, and animals, and the sounds of the trees made music a constant presence. But the music seems secondary now; it was the vehicle that carried me to a deeper understanding of myself, hence a deeper understanding of others and of the world in which I live. Because music is my personal guiding metaphor—for God, love, transformation, peace—when the metaphor expands, Truth seems a little bit closer. What I learned in these workshops and what I saw our students learn, was how to access our common humanity. We were no longer defined solely by our roles as teacher or student because we shared those jobs. We were no longer defined only as Americans because we, unlike the usual tourists, were earnestly involved in learning our hosts' musical cultures. As the old and acquired definitions of ourselves rescinded into the background, we were free to develop the more universal aspects of our souls as creative, spiritual, and connected human beings.


My Journey: Over the River and Through the Woods, to Other Cultures I Go (Dooley)

From the minute our plane left the ground, I was nervous about the food, the bugs, the extended plane trip to another continent. What were the people going to be like? Were the bugs going to choose me as their new parasitic host? With 18 hours of flying ahead, I was fighting off these and other wicked thoughts. I had to make myself believe that, in the end, all of it (the money, the immunizations, the anxiety) would be worth it.

I had different reasons for wanting to go to Ghana. I wanted to learn more about Ghanaian drumming but I also wanted to experience life in Ghana. Through this workshop, I was able to bring to life what I had read about and studied. Ghana as a country and as a concept took on a completely different meaning once I was there. My Ghana experience was not just about the music, dance and drumming; it was about the people, the heat, the smells, the bugs, and everything else African that is so far removed from my experiences at home.

I would like to say that all of my memories were good and that there were no bumps along the way but this would not be true. Interestingly, however, the bumps provided some of my most vivid memories, like lying in bed sweltering under my mosquito netting or the pain in my swollen hands after my first drum lessons.

Yet, these annoyances were incidental to the big picture. Now, when I pick up an Ewe drum, I associate it with a memory from that summer in Ghana. But more lasting than the material objects I brought back, a bit of Ghana now exists inside of me. My understanding of Ghana has become three-dimensional; all of the real-life details have been added. Moreover, I have become more intuitive in my research and have taken to it with renewed vigor.

The following year I was once again immersed in the unknown when I attended the workshop in Bali. There I attended religious and social events and became part of processions and walked amongst the people who held these ceremonies sacred. This time, however, I had my experiences from Ghana to help me. And once again, books did not fully prepare me for the multimedia experience that is Bali.

The workshop was held during the first democratic election in Indonesia in 50 years and the streets were lined with red, yellow, and green flags for political parties. The energy from the political rally was almost electric as packs of motorcycles, each proclaiming its allegiance to a particular party, zoomed past. And even though this had nothing to do with the music, my Balinese education had begun.

I had gamelan lessons almost every day and took drum lessons as well. With one workshop behind me, I felt less concerned with the small things—the heat, the food, the insects—that had seemed so big in Ghana. Some of this was due to the fact that I had a bit of experience traveling, but it was also because Bali was not as far removed from my Western lifestyle. In fact, our home-stay in Peliatan was right behind a convenience store. This was just a little different from the corn and cassava that surrounded us in the Ghanaian village.

Bali gave me another set of vivid memories with which to adjust my personal and scholarly lens. The experiences with the workshops emboldened me and provided the foundation for a third trip abroad for music and culture study in Cuba.

I am still not sure where these experiences fit into my own cultural makeup. At this point I am glad to have had the opportunities that I have had. As students of ethnomusicology and as students of life we may find ourselves in many unusual situations throughout the world. We may find ourselves in the middle of a huge crowd as part of a cremation procession in Bali, in the middle of many African dancers at a Ghanaian funeral, or covered in sweat in a small room at a Cuban Santería ceremony. As I have traveled to these various far away places, I have also learned how close they really are and of the centrality of music in culture. Now, when I turn on the radio or walk down the street, I can use my experience within these foreign cultures to help me understand more deeply the workings of culture here in my own backyard. With each new venture into the field the world has shrunk just a bit. Distant peoples and ideas have become part of my own experience.


Africa, Bali, and the Concept of Closeness (Jungers)

My journey to Africa taught me about the importance of experience in education. How can you compare a textbook to lessons from a master drummer? Yet, although I went to Ghana to learn the dances and drumming, the majority of knowledge I brought back was found outside the formal lessons. In Kopeyia I could walk outside the compound where we lived and enter a world of mud huts and thatched roofs, of hardworking farmers and evening storytelling, a world where the sun rather than a clock organized life.

Now that I am home I realize that what really changed during this trip were the adverbs in my life. This may sound strange, but while I find I appreciate the same things as before, now I appreciate them with a greater intensity. On the outside I am the same, but there has been an internal change in the way I think.

I have always felt fortunate to have many wonderful people in my life but my experience in Africa helped me appreciate them more fully. The people of Kopeyia do not have great material wealth, but I am impressed with the importance they place on family. Cousins are referred to as "brothers and sisters" and the older people are looked to with respect.

My experience in Africa also taught me about education. I have always enjoyed school, but even more, I enjoy learning. This love for learning was intensified by my trip, and encouraged me to attend the Bali workshop.

Though I went to Bali to study music and dance, I again learned much more. Besides formal lessons in language and music, I received informal lessons in cultural norms, religion, and values. One single theme ties everything together: closeness. On a small island with many people, one would expect a certain level of closeness, but it goes far beyond the physical proximity of the inhabitants. From nature to music, from family life to worship, the concept of closeness permeates every aspect of Balinese life.

The first place I found closeness was in the Balinese relationship with nature. On a tropical island, it is difficult not to be close to nature. Animals were everywhere! Roosters crowed to begin each morning and lizards lived in the roof. The butterflies were as large as birds. Food sources, too, like rice and tropical fruits, come from all around where people live; these are also used in religious offerings. The natural beauty was sometimes startling; with few tall buildings and little light pollution, the night sky was amazing with its glowing stars.

Closeness extends to the music. Here, the meaning has more to do with things that interlock or complement one another. In gamelan ensembles are countless examples of complementary elements. The drums come in male/female pairs. Each metallophone has a slightly de-tuned partner; when sounded together, they produce waves. The music is arranged into parts so that every silent pause is filled by the note of a complementary instrument. Groups must rehearse together. Individuals do not take home the instruments; a gamelan is a sacred part of the village community that reinforces the group aesthetic and the philosophy of closeness.

Closeness applies also to family structures. Narrow roads lead to family compound upon family compound, and multiple generations often live in the same home. Our gamelan instructor illustrated this idea when he told family stories. As he spoke of his young son, his face came alive and you could hear the pride in his voice. When his son came along for rehearsals, every adult in the compound held the child.

In Bali, I became closer to my own roots. How could I travel for days, spend weeks away, and become closer to home? I discovered that when faced with traditions, food, and music so different from my own, I was forced to look at my own life through a new perspective. I was raised in a Catholic tradition; being on an island that is primarily Hindu made me question my own beliefs. I was surprised to find how many beliefs were similar. I saw that truth is not contained only in one church or philosophy.

My journey to Bali was several years ago, but this concept of closeness remains with me. Now, when I hear news about Indonesia (or Ghana), I listen carefully; it is no longer just a far-away country. I have eagerly shared my adventures with others. I showed a friend how to dance with her eyes and I taught a classroom of children a song in Indonesian. I spoke with a church group about temple ceremonies.

There is another "close" that I should mention: in Bali, sometimes I felt close to heaven.


Conclusion (Cornelius, Harnish)

Back in the academy we professors are supposed to be the ones doing the teaching, but the act of directing and participating in these workshops also reminds us of how much we have still to learn. And of how, if we choose to listen carefully, much learning can come to us from our students. Workshop response papers—and we have shared only two of hundreds—are invariably insightful, often humbling. We are reminded that we are subjective and reflexive beings, learning through our interactions with others.11 Of course, these students are unusual. Trips to France and Germany seem plenty exotic to most young adults, and the vast majority of BGSU students studying abroad choose such countries. Places like Ghana and Bali are pretty much off their radar screens. Only the most adventurous—however awed, startled, confused, even terrified they may at times become—will even consider such a trip. Surely such bravado is to be cherished and encouraged. How, we should be asking, can we get all of our students to take more risks, not just in foreign lands, but also in our classrooms?

These workshops provide opportunities for students to learn outside the academy and explore other musical cultures. More broadly, students come to more fully understand their place in our increasingly international world. Gone, or at least mitigated, are previous biases and romantic or exotic notions of Asia or Africa. In their stead are newly discovered inner strengths and imaginations that help students see their community, culture, and even themselves in a new light. Independent research confirms these transformations.12 Students have opportunities to "explore other epistemologies" and "other ways of knowing and of organizing experience," and they learn to find their place in a cultural/perceptual system.13

Upon their return our study-abroad students almost invariably assume leadership roles in our non-Western music ensembles. This is partly the result of a heightened level of cultural familiarity, but it is also skill related. During even this brief study-abroad students have gained significantly powerful new sets of musical skills and problem solving tools. Carlson et al. refer to such benefits of international experience as more competent "personal self-efficacy."14 Students, who have had "things happen to them" abroad, have a tendency to blend their acquired identities and to "make things happen" after they return.15

Many of our students have gone on to careers in education. Perhaps most important for them, and our field as a whole, has been their realization that teaching music consists of more than dots on a page and notes in a scale, that music is more than building formations on a football field or choreographing a chanted Balinese kecak performance in a classroom. Like so many pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, those things are essential, but each is only a part of the broader picture. After all, what draws us to our profession, when placed in its broadest context, is that music teaches us about the human condition. Music offers a lens to see life more clearly, a frame to capture and make sense of who and what we are. Music—as all these papers attest, but which Natvig's perhaps encapsulates most eloquently—is a tool that helps us to "access our common humanity."

1C. Victor Fung, "Experiencing World Music in Schools: From Fundamental Positions to Strategic Guidelines," in B. Reimer, ed., World Musics and Music Education: Facing the Issues, (Reston, VA: Music Educators National ConferenceThe National Association for Music Education), 187-204.

2Jerry S. Carlson, Barbara B. Burn, John Useem, and David Yachimowicz, Study Abroad: The Experience of American Undergraduates, (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1990), 23.

3C. Victor Fung, "Mind Opening through Music: An Internationalized Music Curriculum," in Mestenhauser and Ellingboe, eds., Reforming the Higher Education Curriculum: Internationalizing the Campus, (Phoenix: The American Council on Education and The Oryx Press), 118-24.

4Harvey B. Sarles, "Explaining Ourselves through Others' Cultural Visions," in Mestenhauser and Ellingboe, eds., Reforming the Higher Education Curriculum: Internationalizing the Campus, (Phoenix: The American Council on Education and The Oryx Press), 135-49.

5Richard T. Jurasek, "Earlham College: Connecting Off-campus and On-campus Learning," in Barbara B. Burn, ed., Integrating Study Abroad into the Undergraduate Liberal Arts Curriculum: Eight Institutional Case Studies, (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press), 7-29.

6Since 1998, the Ghana and Bali workshops have been cross-listed with BGSU's School of Art. Professor Rebecca L. Green directs the art section of the workshops.

7This article was written well before the October 12, 2002 terrorist attack in Bali, which will probably shatter for good the notion of peaceful "paradise." Our 2003 workshop to Bali is currently on hold.

8Rucina Ballinger, an American living in Bali, has served as a consultant for the 1999 and 2001 workshops and deserves credit for their successes. She helps coordinate teachers, schedules, and guest presenters; organizes transportation; arranges an on-site orientation to Peliatan village; and in general helps me to manage the workshops and students (these workshops averaged 25 students).

9When I informed the Balinese batik teacher, Nyoman Suradnya, of this statement, he excitedly proclaimed, "This (type of realization) is what makes us proud as teachers!" I could not have agreed with him more.

10When we boarded the airplane to return home in 2001, the student dancers refused to allow the stewardesses to stow their headdresses below the seats. "These are sacred, and cannot touch the ground," they exclaimed, and they were adamant and unrelenting. The stewardesses gave in and allowed the headdresses to be stowed in the overhead compartments in the first class cabin. The students had absorbed their teachings well, and were, for those moments, living exponents of those teachings. I was impressed but felt sad in knowing that when we landed in Detroit, the world we had created together as a group in Bali would suddenly disappear. The force of this world would also subside as we integrated back into life in America.

11Gregory F. Barz and Timothy J. Cooley, eds., Shadows in the Field: New Perspectives for Fieldwork in Ethnomusicology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

12See, for example, Carlson et al., ibid.

13Jurasek, ibid., 13.

14Carlson et al., ibid., 23-4.

15Ibid., 112.

2775 Last modified on October 7, 2018