A UBC music researcher is teaching the world’s first university course on musical expressions in a Canadian inner city.
The class will help more than 30 UBC music students to learn about music in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and to showcase the musical talents of neighbourhood residents.
Heart of the City: Introduction to Applied Ethnomusicology is taught by Klisala Harrison, a postdoctoral teaching and research fellow in UBC’s School of Music who has researched inner city music in the area and around Canada for the past nine years.
“Music plays an important role in regenerating socioeconomically depressed urban areas,” says Harrison, 34. “It can build trust, self-esteem and a positive sense of community. For some, it is a tool for emotional, psychological and physical survival.”
Downtown Eastside residents – including some hard-to-house and homeless – will pair with students for singing lessons, a First Nations song workshop and the creation and performance of original music for gamelan, a traditional Indonesian orchestra of specially-tuned xylophones, gongs and chimes. A showcase of neighbourhood singers and songwriters supported by UBC students in an orchestra, choir and production team will be another highlight.
The fourth-year seminar is being offered by the UBC School of Music and the UBC Learning Exchange in partnership with the Faculty of Arts’ First Nations Studies Program. It is one of a growing number of classes incorporating Community Service Learning, a form of experiential education that combines classroom learning with volunteer work to achieve community goals.
Harrison says the student projects are examples of applied ethnomusicology, an approach to music scholarship guided by principles of social responsibility that works within and beyond typical academic contexts to explore how music works towards solving social problems.
The Downtown Eastside Music Theatre Showcase will feature 30 songs created in and around the neighbourhood. Nineteen UBC students will serve in the orchestra, choir and stage crew for residents, who will star as lead performers. Students will also document the performance with a film crew, interview participants and research the transformative effects that music can have on communities under stress.
The singing and gamelan projects, which will include public performances, will occur at Vancouver’s Carnegie Community Centre and Interurban Gallery between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1.
UBC School of Music:
UBC Learning Exchange:
Dr. Klisala Harrison: