This summer, MwB was invited to lead two trainings for professional musicians and music students, in partnership with academic institutions in the US (Vermont) and the UK (London). Working within academic settings is new terrain for our trainers, which challenged us to present more theoretical knowledge about our work alongside practical activities. We also witnessed that for many participants, the ability to transform the traditional classroom setting, learning through experience and the body, was a welcome change.
In June, MwB embarked on an unprecedented two week collaboration with SIT Graduate Institute and the CONTACT Summer Peacebuilding Program. This year, CONTACT celebrated its 20th anniversary training professionals in methods of conflict transformation. This was the first year that the program included a special focus on music within their curriculum. We trained 14 musicians in methods of music for community building, including a young woman who is eager to begin her own program promoting cross-cultural exchange in South Africa and an Armenian woman who is running after-school music programs in Baltimore serving refugees, unaccompanied migrants and at-risk youth.
In the words of one of our participants who came from a classical music background: “The training was intense, and required from me a somewhat uncomfortable level of inhibition; we were not lectured to, but instead thrown into the deep end with singing, movement and musical exploration exercises. As a classically trained musician, I thought I was accustomed to ‘performing’, but this type of performance was quite different: there was no right or wrong, and there was no shame in what I could or could not do.”
Another participant, also coming from a primarily academic background as a student at SIT, shared that the training was able to translate what she has learned in the classroom to a practical context: “During one of my first graduate classes at SIT in the field of Peace Studies, we were invited to imagine a social space where all parties’ goals are met, as a way for transforming conflict. I have carried that concept with me throughout the year. The training that I received from Musicians without Borders was joyful and inspiring, and it is clear to me that the work they are doing, i.e., creating music, is contributing toward the formation of that social space that is necessary for transforming conflicts.”
In July, MwB led a four day training in community music and peace-building for 30 musicians as part of the SOAS Summer Music School at the University of London. Our participants were hungry to absorb practical activities alongside theoretical knowledge about our work, leaving us with the impression that four days is simply not enough to address the needs and interests of such a diverse group of music practitioners. For this reason, we are now working on developing an online resource library that our current and former trainees can access as a theoretical knowledge base to accompany the ‘hands-on’ activities that we provide within our trainings. This October, as part of our Training of Trainers in the Netherlands, we will also organize a panel discussion to further discussion and debate around music as a tool for peace-building.
We appreciate the opportunities we’ve had this summer to reach new audiences and to learn from each other about how to share resources related to community music programs around the world.