Evaluation: MusicUnitesUS Education Outreach Program 2005-06
“Many educational programs boast of “making history come alive” in their course descriptions – the MusicUnitesUS program truly delivers on this promise each year as evidenced by the hundreds of students who contribute to the musical performances through their questions, answers, and, oftentimes, their joyful participation in the performance itself. The MusicUnitesUS program is a quintessential example of the successful bonding of two educational institutions to enhance and enrich the learning experience of students of a community. The program also makes great strides in achieving the larger mission of introducing and hopefully creating within young people the values that will ultimately better the world condition.”
- Stephen Goodwin, Director, History and Social Science, Waltham Public School System
MusicUnitesUS was founded in 2003 by Director Judith Eissenberg, a music department faculty member at Brandeis University, and a founding member of the Lydian String Quartet, in residence since 1980. The mission of MusicUnitesUS is to further the understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures through music. We believe that music is a common medium that can help to unite diverse cultures in our own neighborhoods and transcend boundaries in the global community.
Overview of MusicUnitesUS: Three-tiered program
MusicUnitesUS is a three-tiered program of Brandeis University that encompasses an Education Outreach Program, an Intercultural Residency Series, and a World Music Series. These three tiers complement, support, inspire, and inform each other educationally and practically as they share resources from faculty and curriculum to venue and funding. Critical inquiry, creative expression, experiential learning, and artistic appreciation are among the objectives of each aspect of this far-reaching program.
The Public School Education Program brings more than 1,000 Waltham public school students to Brandeis University and offers, three times a year, a series of musical and educational performances. Through music performances at Brandeis University's Slosberg Recital Hall, students are exposed to authentic voices revealing cultural values that express overarching social themes such as freedom and justice, identity, multiculturalism, and diversity. These distinctive performances inform through the music, the stories of the people, their history, culture, hopes, and aspirations. Each performance is shaped to link and reinforce the content of the public school social studies/history curricula taught in the classroom, and cooperating educators teach lesson plans relating to the historical and social aspects of the cultures thematically represented in the music. This program was fully funded by the Carter Dalton Quinn Charitable Trust in 2005-2006.
The Intercultural Residency Series takes place in the University setting and links the creative arts with academic inquiry in explorations of culture, history, and tradition. The Intercultural Residency Series at Brandeis University hosts for a few days each semester, a musical ensemble whose ethos is embedded in a particular social, cultural, and/or political environment. With music as the common language, the Intercultural Residency Series addresses the eternal questions of social justice and peaceful coexistence in the global community through events that offer opportunities for intellectual inquiry, reflective process, experiential learning, and creative expression. Workshops with Brandeis students, integration with curricula of ongoing courses, panel discussions and lectures by Brandeis and visiting faculty, and dialogues in informal social gatherings connected with the residency invite the Brandeis community to experience the arts and facilitate a greater understanding of diversity.
The World Music Series presents musicians of international stature representing diverse cultures in a series of public concerts at Brandeis University. In the intimate setting of Slosberg Recital Hall, each concert invites the audience to experience the history, cultural memories - indeed, the heart and soul of a people through the autobiographical narrative of music.
The Education Outreach Program was the first program of MusicUnitesUS. The pilot year 2003-04 brought the fifth grade classes from two Waltham Public Schools to Brandeis to experience three programs: (1) the Lydian String Quartet performance of music that traced the history of revolution from the United States of the late 18th Century through Europe and into the Soviet Union, (2) the musicians from South Africa performance of drumming that linked a lesson on the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and (3) the Per· Negro ensemble performance highlighting the history of Black Peru.
In 2004-05, MusicUnitesUs again offered three programs: (1) African-American cultural worker/song writer Jane Sapp together with musicians of South Africa in a joint program on Civil Rights, (2) the Orchid Ensemble in a program exploring the cultural exchange on the ancient Silk Roads of Central Asia, and (3) a return visit of Per· Negro highlighting the history of Black Peru.
In 2005-06, MusicUnitesUs hosted three programs, the Yuval Ron Ensemble, the Lydian String Quartet and the Sol y Canto ensemble.
Yuval Ron Ensemble: Spiritual traditions of the Middle East, October 2005:
The Yuval Ron Ensemble is a collaboration of musicians from Arab, Israeli, and Armenian origins who unite the sacred musical traditions of Sufism (Islamic mystical tradition), Judaism and the Christian Armenian Church. Their performance imparts the ancient and profound intercultural connection among these traditions and the musical influences they share. Their mission is framed around peace and reconciliation. The Yuval Ron Ensemble presented a program that reinforced the 8th grade history and social science curricula.
Lydian String Quartet: Immigration in the United States, December 2005:
The Lydian String Quartet is Brandeis University's internationally acclaimed quartet-in-residence since 1980. The Lydian String Quartet has concertized throughout the United States and Europe. The Lydian String Quartet presented a program that reinforced the 4th grade history and social science curricula that that included topics of A Nation of Many People, Immigration, and Communities. The focus was on diverse traditions major immigrant groups brought to the United States through music. What songs did they bring? What values and worldviews were represented through the music? What did these new immigrants leave behind? In this unique presentation of music through the lens of the string quartet (with its own Eurocentric tradition), students heard many of the voices that make up this country's soundscape of multiculturalism.
Sol y Canto: Songs of Struggle - The Nueva CanciÛn Tradition of Latin America,
Sol y Canto performed the music and songs from the nueva canciÛn (new song) movement of Latin America. Nueva canciÛn arose in the 1960's in response to social struggles engulfing a continent largely ruled by dictatorships. It combined indigenous musical elements with lyrics addressing questions of justice, freedom, and human rights. Illustrating the importance of cultural memory to identity and the power of art as a tool of resistance, this residency spoke to issues of political and personal freedom through the oral history tradition music provides. Sol y Canto presented a program that reinforced 9th grade history and social science curricula.
This section will focus on evaluating the student participants and outcomes, logistical issues, lesson plan preparation, execution and teacher evaluations, evaluation of each program, student reactions, reflections of the lesson plan writer, special related events for educators, MUUS partnership with the Brandeis Theater Company, and the impact on the Brandeis community and on the musicians.
4th grade: 323 students
8th grade: 377 students
9th grade: 379 students
With the thorough preparation of the Waltham Schools and MusicUnitesUS, the logistics of the 2005-2006 went very smoothly. Buses were mainly prompt; students were met upon arrival by Brandeis student hosts and escorted to and from the recital hall; equipment on stage was ready, including microphones and sound equipment. Student behavior was excellent. There were teachers with all the classes supervising their students. The Director of History and Social Science, the Assistant Superintendent, and the Director of the Arts of the Waltham Public Schools attended most, if not all the performances.
The lesson plan links were more effective for these performances than in previous years, as is evidenced by the teachers’ oral and written comments, and by the students’ participation and assignments. Evaluation forms from the teachers revealed the following:
…The teachers would like to know before the summer about the choice of groups so that they may include the planning in their study groups.
…The arts (music, visual) would like more participation in the planning so that they can be part of the program.
…One of the music teachers expressed interest in creating lesson plans in the future.
…The teachers pointed out that the literacy levels are varied in each grade, and that different leveled alternatives should be provided. For homework assignments, lower levels need aids such as bolding of words/ideas, double-spacing, etc. The cds were a favorite of the teachers and the students. They prepared the students for the actual performance and provided an entry into unfamiliar musical traditions.
…The teachers and students appreciated the diversity of the music. Active participation was always a highlight (dancing, singing, playing with the musicians on stage, clapping, reading selections, asking/answering questions, etc.), and the comments made on stage by the artists, confirming and expanding on the classroom curriculum were an essential part of the programs, encouraging the students to make connections.
…The teachers felt the homework assignments were very helpful for building on the students’ prior knowledge.
…Both the teachers and the students remarked on how nice it was to come to Brandeis for the performances. There was discussion for days after the events on what the students had experienced in the programs.
The lesson plan extended the public school curriculum with general information about each religious tradition, and cited the example of artistically wrought drawings of the word for god in each tradition, symbolically representing the differences and commonalities. One homework assignment was to create a peace poster and this was very well received and very effective as a learning tool.
Yuval Ron Ensemble, October 2005: “This was the first performance of the year and also the first lesson plan that I wrote for the program. Not surprisingly, it took me the most time to put together and, in my estimation, was probably the least effective of the three. The material itself presented several challenges, since the Yuval Ron Ensemble performs music from three religious traditions, composed over the course of many centuries and in lands as far a-field as Israel, Spain, and Los Angeles. It was an intellectual challenge on my part to ascertain how I could best encompass the richness of this vast store of material without compromising the complexity or “situatedness” of each tradition. For instance, in keeping with the goals of the Ensemble, I wrote the lesson to emphasize the commonalities of the religious traditions, especially vis a vis their music, but in so doing, I did not give appropriate recognition to the deeply-felt differences among the traditions, many of which are relevant in the various conflicts in the Middle East today.”
“In addition to the challenges presented by the material, this was my first experience working with the Social Studies department at the Waltham schools, and there were some crossed signals. For instance, one of the 8th grade teachers with whom I spoke during the planning told me that the curriculum I had been given by the department head was out of date, and that Islam and Judaism had been taken out of the World History course in favor of a renewed focus on Christianity. Per her information, I planned the lesson to introduce and re-introduce students to each of these religious traditions, and because of the time constraints, I pursued a phenomenological approach, which would not have been my preference if the students already had more background knowledge. When I presented the plan to the teachers, though, they told me that they had actually taught a unit on the Islamic empires in the beginning of the year. Though this didn’t significantly change the import of the lesson, it was an example of the closer communication required if the lessons are to be integrated seamlessly.”
“This lesson was also probably the most difficult for the teachers to implement because I included more technical elements (for instance, word game exercises) that were, in hindsight, impractical for teachers who were not already familiar with such techniques. I learned from this that rather than directing a teacher’s every move (and trying out novel pedagogical tactics) I should give the teachers a blueprint, so to speak, which they could use in concert with their own communication styles and in their already established classroom routines.”
“Finally, the performance itself also demonstrated the need for communication and teamwork. During the first performance, though the music was stunning and the students were clearly intrigued by it, Yuval Ron did not explicitly connect what he was doing on the stage with what the students had been learning in the classroom. Upon Judith Eissenberg’s advice, he shaped the second performance differently, and it was much more suitable to the program’s goals. (We saw the same pattern with the Sol y Canto performance several months later.)”
Lydian String Quartet, December 2005: “This was the easiest lesson to write, because Judith Eissenberg, the director of MusicUnitesUS, is also a member of the Lydian String Quartet and therefore planned the musical program in tandem with me as I planned the lesson. We were able to shape the lesson to the demographics of Waltham and Boston and were able to pick music that corresponded. Clearly this was a unique situation, but it certainly served to model what the ideal level of cooperation between the lesson planner and the performers can be.”
“I understand that the teachers had positive reactions to the lesson plan, in particular the visual nature of the activities. It was also less technical than the first (this being 4th grade, that was natural) and fit more easily into the two-day allotted time period. Perhaps precisely because immigration is not one of my own areas of academic expertise, it was easier for me to hold myself to only the most relevant material. Questions such as “What would you bring with you if you had to move to a new country with only one suitcase?” were simple yet able to capture the imagination of the young students.”
Sol y Canto, February 2006: “By the time I wrote this lesson plan, I had a good feel for what was working best with the teachers and students in Waltham. I was fortunate to work with Brian Amador, a member of Sol y Canto from the beginning of my planning, and he was able to help me focus my research and subsequent lessons at the outset. Also, because the group planned to perform music that had been written in the cause of social justice, it was simple to come up with guiding questions and linkages to MusicUnitesUS goals.”
“This lesson was designed to coincide with the conclusion of the 9th grade unit on Latin America, and therefore I assigned readings from the students’ textbooks as a reminder of the causes of social unrest in 1960’s and 1970’s Latin America. As I should have expected, we ran into a bit of trouble integrating this perfectly, and once again demonstrated the need for continued communication with the teachers. Most 9th grade teachers actually finished the unit ahead of time and did not cover the material all the way to the ‘60s and ‘70s. Though this didn’t significantly hurt the lesson, it did serve as a reminder that it is very difficult to know many months ahead of time exactly what teachers will decide to focus upon: the flexibility of the lesson is key.”
“Overall, I think that this lesson was the most successful of the three. (Interestingly, it also took me the least amount of time to plan, as I had figured out a routine by this point.) It wasn’t particularly technical but provided the teachers with several very interesting resources and asked them to work through the different perspectives and questions with their students. Also, since the topic at hand was protest music, a genre that is alive and well in our own country today, teachers were able to relate the lesson to everyone from Bob Dylan to Kanye West. According to the head of the department, the whole social studies hallway was humming with music during class that week.”
Conclusions: “Ultimately, the success of the third lesson, relative to the previous two, had to do with solid communication with the performers, a less technical but still robust gathering of materials and resources for the teachers, and most importantly, the identification of guiding questions that both students and teachers found relevant and exciting. The fantastic work that the students produced (songs protesting injustices in our own society) is a testament to their ability and desire to be engaged in this way.”
“Though the learning curve has been steep for me, I think that we are all figuring out exactly how to make the integration of the students’ work at school and the offerings of the Brandeis program mutually beneficial. The long-term effects of the program can be substantial: not only are students getting exposed to new kinds of music and new ways of thinking about the relationship of the arts to social justice, but so are their teachers. I received emails from other teachers who found these lesson plans on the Internet, and I think that there is a real thirst for this sort of problem-posing and interdisciplinary approach. Ultimately it is the questions that these students are discovering and with which they are wrestling that is so important. I am looking forward to bringing that part (the questions) of the lesson planning to the fore in next years’ programs.”
In September 2005, MusicUnitesUS Director Judith Eissenberg gave a presentation at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis for a group of 56 members from the National Docents Symposium about the Education Outreach Program. The presentation focused on the links of the Creative Arts to other subject areas in the public school curriculum and in particular, music and visual arts with the social studies curriculum. There was much interest in the collaboration between institutions: Brandeis University, the Rose Art Museum and the public schools, and the lesson plans were distributed.
Because the two visiting ensembles - the Yuval Ron Ensemble and Sol y Canto - were part of a larger Intercultural Residency Series at Brandeis, there were many classes, workshops, lectures, and presentations that were free and open to the public, as well as the World Music Series concerts.
There was one afternoon during the Yuval Ron Residency that was specifically designed for educators. “Can We Bridge Our Deepest Divides: Religion, Culture, Education, and the Future of Democracy” was a series of presentations, performances, and conversations featuring Yuval Ron, Armenian duduk player Yeghish Manukian, and Muslim comedienne Tissa Hami. Following this was a discussion with Dr. Diane L. Moore, Harvard Divinity School faculty member and author of the upcoming book Overcoming Religious Illiteracy: A Multicultural Approach to Teaching about Religion in the Schools. The performances of the musicians, accompanied by remarks about the relationship of the music to history, tradition, and culture, illustrated the power of art and music in education, across subject areas. Yeghish Manukian, with the aid of a translator, told the story of how he grew up in Armenia, learned his art through oral tradition, and came to be an international performer. This was an intimate portrait of a very different way of life that drew many questions from the audience, which included students, educators, and the general public. Tissa Hami’s performance was a delightful and thought-provoking take on what it is like to be a Muslim in the US, and what it is like to be a female Muslim. The performance demonstrated the possibilities humor offers to challenging topics. Finally, the presentation by Dr. Moore inspired an engaging and provocative discussion about the need for Religious and Cultural Literacy in Education and society in general. Separation of church and state, teaching about religion (not for religion), the responsibilities of a democratic society to educate itself about other cultures and understand diverse world views were topics that carried this discussion into overtime.
During the Sol y Canto residency, there was a related art exhibit at the Women’s Studies Research Center: “Threads of Hope”: The Arpilleras of Chile. This rare exhibit, free and open to the public attracted students, the general public, and educators throughout the month of February. The owner of the collection, Chilean poet and activist Marjorie AgosÌn gave a very informative and moving gallery talk about the political movements in Latin America in the 70s and 80s, and the role of women, in particular, the arpilleristas in Chile. Music from the nueva canciÛn tradition and lesson plans from the MusicUnitesUS program was available, and many requests were made by visiting educators for these materials. Director Judith Eissenberg was asked to talk with local public school educators about the program.
…Better timing and fit with the curriculum
…More communication with the teachers
…Simpler, user-friendly, integrated, and informative lesson plans with
…More communication with artists beforehand, including sharing lesson plans
…High quality groups, with experience in education programs
The Education Outreach Program enjoys performances of the highest quality. In most cases, the musicians have traveled from another country and present music with which the students are unfamiliar. The level of artistry and the true representation of cultural diversity are essential to the mission of this program, and is possible financially because of the continued support of the Carter Dalton Quinn Charitable Trust and the partnership and integration with the other tiers of MusicUnitesUS. The international groups that perform in the World Music Series stay for a residency at Brandeis that includes carefully shaped performances for the public schools. The mission of MusicUnitesUS - to further the appreciation of diverse cultures through music - is consistent in all three tiers. The vision of music uniting us is embodied in the integration of the three communities served by this program: the general public, the university students, and the young citizens of tomorrow, our children in the public schools. It is our hope that this program will stand as a model for other educational institutions and their communities. It is our intent that the arts take a more active role in educating and activating our students as regards the issues confronting in our society today.