Facing the Music: Shaping Music Education from a Global Perspective

By Huib Schippers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Journeys in Music
An Auto-Ethnography

The elementary school music teacher I met at the International School of Kuala
Lumpur had a slightly unusual background. Jennifer Walden was the
daughter of a jazz musician; she played in pop and brass bands during
her school days, studied classical guitar, and then moved into music teaching
in the International School circuit. This brought her in contact with
cumbia in Colombia, ud in Syria, Chinese opera in Taiwan, and sitar,
gamelan, and kompang drumming in Malaysia. She included all
of these traditions in teaching music to seven-to-twelve-year-olds in the
multinational and privileged environment of an affluent private school. A
striking example was a lesson I witnessed in 1995, when Jennifer was
teaching gordang sembilan, normally played only on nine large standing
drums for special occasions among the Mandailing people from north-central
Sumatra.1 Walden did not have nine large standing drums in her class-
room. So she divided the children over a Chinese drum, a conga, a djembe,
a darbuka, kompang frame drums, cumbia drums, and the tom-tom of the
trap drum set. As I sat at the back of the classroom, the ethnomusicologist
in me frowned at this perversion of authentic representations of traditional
music in cultural context. But as Walden taught the different parts of
the drum piece, the music started coming together in rhythm, sound,
and, most importantly, in the awareness of the children. They got it. It
came to life as what I would not hesitate to call an “authentic” musical
experience
.

-1-

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