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Professor helps to aid music educators abroad

by Kristina Livingston - Executive Editor
Tue, Apr 3rd 2018 10:00 pm

Associate professor of ethnomusicology at The College of Brockport Natalie Sarrazin has been researching and visiting India for almost 20 years. With an interest in music education, Sarrazin decided to assess the state of such in Delhi, finding that there was a complete lack of organized groups for music educators to essentially learn how to teach their material and develop professionally.

In 2014, Sarrazin formed the Western Music Education Association with three Indian colleagues, Anjli Mata, Ritesh Kolkhar and Prachi Chandel, with a focus on training Indian educators in instruments such as the guitar and keyboard, due to the rising popularity of Western music in the region. The WMEA kicked off its first conference in the same year. With a relatively small turnout of 60 people, Sarrazin decided to collaborate with the National Association for Music Education, which at the time, was looking to expand internationally.

March 4 and 5 of 2018, the WMEA took its conference to South India for the first time, specifically the cities of Cochin on the west coast, and Chennai on the east coast. At the back-to-back conferences, Sarrazin’s team hosted workshops and presentations, and in addition, made online seminars available for additional instructional development.

“In India, they’re very unsupported,” Sarrazin said. “There are no training programs for them, there are no degrees for them – you don’t go to school for music education like you do here. So they walk into the classroom with nothing.”

WMEA is in the process of expanding its network, aiming to recruit more professors and instructors who are willing and able to travel to the conferences to lend their talents. 

One of the largest hurdles in making WMEA conferences and resources more widely available internationally are the membership fees which it requires, as such a process is not familiar in India. Nor is the concept of being a member of an association, Sarrazin said. In response, WMEA has brought down the fee to make its resources more accessible, and is planning on embarking on fundraising opportunities.

“We’re starting this from scratch, all of us,” Sarrazin said. “It started with four of us [on the WMEA board] but now we’ve got a South Indian group working with us.”

Senior Brigette Meskell was able to accompany Sarrazin through a SURP grant, which enables students to partake in research opportunities with their instructors. Meskell has been assisting Sarrazin on a book centered on popular music in India, and plans on receiving a Masters in ethnomusicology.

Meskell presented on harmonic chord progression, providing instruction on songs which divert from a typical chord structure, analyzing the song “Creep” by Radiohead as her prime example. 

“It was quite a rush,” Meskell wrote in an email. “To be able to get up in front of a whole conference room of people and talk about something I am extremely passionate about was eye-opening. Like any intense experience, it definitely lent me helpful insight regarding my desires, goals for the future. It definitely felt like the crowd really took to what I had to say. They had a lovely energy …”

In the future, Sarrazin would like the program to expand to Bombay and incorporate more local involvement, particularly amongst students.

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