Moscow experienced cultures from around the world Friday during the Lionel Hampton School of Music 6th annual World Music Celebration.
Students, faculty and community members nearly filled the Administration Building Auditorium to listen to University of Idaho’s Jazz Choir I, Jazz Band I, Flute Ensemble, World Beat Ensemble and guest artists Yacouba Sissoko and Navin Chettri.
The World Beat Ensemble, directed by UI Professor Barry Bilderback, began the celebration with traditional Ghanaian drumming and dancing. After the World Beat Ensemble’s performance, Bilderback dedicated the night to the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences Dean Andrew Kerston and his wife Vickie Kerston for their major support of the Lionel Hampton School of Music and making the night possible for the students.
“I love that the school brings in different music from different countries,” said Cheyenne Kilian, a graduate student and member of Jazz Choir I and the Flute Ensemble. “I like the opportunity to play with people who aren’t from Idaho.”
Bilderback, who is also co-organizer of the celebration, said students have to pull the performances together very quickly for the World Music Celebration because they cannot practice with the guest artists until just before the event. He said it provides students with the opportunity to experience what “real world performance” is like, because it is so “fast and furious.”
Bilderback said the World Music Celebration does not just provide entertainment but also education. World music is now something that students are required to know, so it’s important for them to get this experience, he said.
“It follows the university’s goals by allowing students to work in areas of diversity and cultural awareness,” he said.
Chettri, co-organizer of the World Music Celebration, said the school of music is always looking for ways to engage their students as much as they can.
“The students get really excited,” Chettri said. “They really get to interact with the artists. It’s engaging and educational.”
Chettri said his favorite part of the World Music Celebration is the first interaction between the students and the guest artists. He said the energy that comes out of that meeting is “pretty cool.”
Kilian said she enjoys that the guest artists not only perform with the ensembles, but come into classes to talk about their culture and their music. Music brings people together, she said.
Barb Vierling, a 14-year community member of Jazz Choir I, said the Lionel Hampton School of Music is lucky to be able to learn about different cultures even though working with diverse music can be challenging. She said it provides a completely different and new experience from people all around the world.
“People don’t understand people from different communities,” she said. “We don’t realize the culture of the people right beside us. We need to know who people are.”
After the World Beat Ensemble’s performance, the Flute Ensemble performed, followed by a solo performance from Sissoko on the kora, also called the African harp. Sissoko played his original compositions and explained the meaning behind each of his songs.
Chettri joined in on the tabla and other percussion instruments, and both guest artists sang during the songs.
The UI Jazz Band I then incorporated the kora and percussion into their performance, as did Jazz Choir I.
Kurt Queller, UI professor of English and German, said he loved the way Sissoko’s kora sounded individually and along with Chettri, but even more he said he appreciated the way the kora was integrated into each ensemble.
“It was just a beautiful, beautiful collaboration,” he said. “I thought it was absolutely amazing, I loved it all.”
Queller has attended the World Music Celebration once or twice before, but he said that after Friday’s performance, it will be on his radar every year. He said he really likes world music and was glad for a chance to come out and support the school and have a good time.
Queller also said it’s important for people to learn from other cultures in order to better understand their own.
“It’s like a fish in water,” he said. “You can’t conceive of a world that’s not a watery world, but once you step outside your culture, not only do you broaden your horizons and appreciation, but you come to understand your own culture in a way that you couldn’t otherwise.”
Jordan Willson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org