"I am you and what I see is me" -Floyd Busy Bee
Study abroad? Well there has been some studying, but most of what I have learned has come from sources other than the institution of which I am enrolled. Extracurricular activities such as teaching, volunteering and adventuring have brought about some grand realizations, although, I require a significant amount of reflection time before I am comfortable sharing such findings. However, in response to my friends and family who are curious about my recent activities I will give a glimpse into my Indian life.
Student teaching has been quite an experience. I am working with the Hyderabad foundation for western music, and recently completed a course in music theory and ear training. The students came from many different backgrounds and levels of musicianship and there was a wide range of age difference from eight to eighty! The most interesting observation on my part was how the students interacted with me. Despite my 'easy-going' attitude and demeanor, the students were very hesitant to speak in class and at first they never even asked any questions. "This is an interactive experience" I would tell them, "I am not the only teacher in the room. We all have something to learn from each other, including me!"
I spent a lot of time with the students outside of class, either in a formal tutoring session or just a casual chat over chai. In this way, I was given insight into how most teachers are perceived in India. "They never admit fault" one student told me, "and they perceive any question as a challenge to their authority and intelligence." With this understanding I continually altered my teaching style, slowing giving more and more student independence with the material; reinforcing the idea that they are teaching themselves and I am only a guide and eventually they were even interrupting me with questions! In the last session, I asked the students for a teacher evaluation (a foreign concept to them), and in reading the responses I have decided I would like to continue teaching. It would seem that I hone my entertainer persona whenever I get in front of a large group of people, as they all gave remarks about being thoroughly engaged for the full two hour session each week.
I have also been directing a choir. The manager of the choir contacted me when she heard there was an American music teacher in Hyderabad. They had suddenly lost their conductor and were in need of finding a replacement. I informed them of my experience with instrumental ensembles, and that although I have sung in several choirs I have certainly never directed one. Despite my lack of experience, they were eager to have me on board. The music had already been selected and is predominately, much to my surprise, church music. Even though have no experience with liturgical music I decided I should still give it a shot. I am learning so much in working with this group who, much like the music class, have a wide range of skill sets and span across many different age groups. Our concerts will be on the 3rd and 5th of December and we will be performing several Latin American folk songs, a Hindi lullaby, some Christmas tunes and Gloria from Mozart's Coronation Mass.
My research has brought me to the Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet, an ancient Indian text which discusses aspects of music theory and aesthetics. The nava rasa theory states that music (and other art forms) have several predetermined rasas (moods or sentiments) which can bring about or alter the audience's emotional state. To test this theory several musical excerpts have been selecting from a wide range of musical styles, each with their own expected emotional response. The audience is asked to answer a few questions regarding their level of musical engagement. They are then given the option of selecting which emotion best describes the musical excerpts provided.
I conducted the research project during the SIP (study India program) cultural show, of which I was also an MC! What?! (more of the entertainer persona). The project lives on as I have landed a sponsor, Creative India, for my research in Chennai at the IndiEarth music and arts festival. The dates are the 6th, 7th and 8th of December so Ill be hopping a train immediately after the choir performance and arriving for the first day of the festival. Yowza! After that Ill be bouncing around India for a while with no solid plans until my mother and sister arrive to visit. Yay! We will travel around a bit and celebrate Christmas together.
I hope all is well with everyone everywhere. Sending love to all my friends in America, Europe, India and all other places in the universe.