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In May of this year Young Tradition Vermont (YTV) and the Vermont Folklife Center (VFC) began working together on the “New Neighbors Music Project.” The project is supported in part by a grant through the Vermont Community Foundation’s “Innovations and Collaborations” program, a fund designed to encourage new partnerships between organizations. YTV’s Mary Wesley is acting as the project coordinator and working with Mark Sustic (president of YTV), Greg Sharrow (co-director, VFC) and many other collaborators to make this happen.
The first phase of the New Neighbors project, now underway, is to build school curriculum that explores and exposes students to the many different kinds of music found in communities across Vermont. The curriculum will draw on the large body of recordings collected through the VFC, particularly recordings made as part of their Vermont Immigrant and Refugee Music Project. The hope is that the experience of listening to a variety of music created by Vermont artists will encourage students to look into the role music plays in their own lives and how it has shaped their personal identity.
In addition to drawing from the VFC archives some new recordings have been made this fall for use in the project: Jamaican apple pickers singing hymns in Cornwall, VT, Migmar Tashi, a Tibetan dramyin (traditional stringed instrument) player from Burlington and a wonderful group of Burundian singers lead by Aline Niyonzi. We are also working to connect with musicians in the Somali-Bantu community in Burlington. Ethno-musicologist and sound engineer Mark Greenberg has been making the recordings.
Betsy Nolan, music teacher at Edmunds Middle School has the important task of writing the lesson plans and curriculum itself. The material will be geared for upper elementary students in grades 5 – 7. Dates are set for teacher trainings in March and the creative team will be doing a presentation at the Vermont Alliance for the Social Studies (VASS) conference in December. As the curriculum goes into use over the next few years YTV hopes to leverage this project to create more ways for young people to engage with traditional music. We are exciting to be working with the VFC!