Project in International Engagement

Please outline the kind of international engagement project that you might consider pursuing and explain how such a project would fit into your broader academic vision. (300 words or less)

Two things happened to me in elementary school that changed my life: I started organizing small local peace rallies with my mother and I got my first alto saxophone. In those days, the two were unrelated. Years later, however, upon joining the jazz band in middle school, I began to make connections. The socioeconomic and racial diversity I encountered in jazz band and the process of uniting through playing together gave me a deeper understanding of the power of music. I began to see music as a language: raw emotion that could be used to open doors of communication between people of any nationality or level of education, and even between groups with histories of violence and hatred. My planned international engagement project is a small step in that direction.I would start with challenged countries — perhaps countries such as Afghanistan, Chad, Iraq, or Somalia — that have been plagued by war. By acquainting myself with community members engaged in conflict, I would attempt to gain an understanding of their cultures through a shared passion for music. With a desire to understand the perspectives of the different communities, I would take concrete steps to stimulate communication between the different groups. I imagine musicians participating in all-inclusive jam sessions, alleviated from their emotional responsibilities to their conflicting parties. There is no substitute for such personal contact and the musical and social benefits that come with it. You can’t hate the drummer if he’s giving you the beat. Music can help these people see each other as human beings rather than as enemies. Even if I can only do that on a small scale, I will at least have contributed to making peaceful change in a unique way.

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