BENEFITING: Aquinas College, Inc.
Proposal for Aquinas College Women’s Chorus Cultural Immersion Trip to Guinea, West Africa
Economically, Guinea is among the poorest nations in the world. Yet, it has a rich cultural and musical tradition that has been passed orally/aurally from generation to generation. Amidst severe poverty, the people of Guinea find cause to celebrate nearly every aspect of life through singing, playing, dancing and drumming. Many of the percussion instruments that are associated with African music originate from Guinea.
This proposal is to provide a mission/study opportunity for Aquinas students and faculty, enabling us to experience this musical culture on a first-hand basis.
We will spend 10 days (plus 2 travel days) in the coastal region of Guinea, in and around Conakry, where we will be housed in the Mansare family compound. Much of our time there will be spent studying music and dance with professional instructors - members of Les Ballets Africains. Classes in singing, dancing and drumming will be taken daily while at the compound. In addition, we will be teaching folk music from the United States to our hosts.
During our stay, we will travel to one of the interior regions of Guinea. This particular region is not as well known for its music. The intent of our visit is two-fold. Dr. Mark Webb, director of the Women’s Chorus, has a former student who is currently serving in this region as a Peace Corps volunteer. It is through this connection, initially, that we have been invited to visit the country. We will be teaching her students some of their own traditional music. In addition, we will be working with her as she establishes a music and drama program for students from her region.
Our primary goal is to learn as much as we can about the musical traditions of Guinea, and to share with our hosts some of our musical traditions. In this manner, we will gain a deeper understanding of a culture seemingly far removed from our own, as well as a better understanding of our role in the world community. We will be providing the service of teaching and sharing, not only through music, but also through daily contact with our hosts and those who live in the area.
We will be recording as much as possible, with the intent of transcribing the music into written form. This has been an oral/aural tradition, and has not been previously notated. Our hope is that by putting it in a written form, it can be shared with a greater world audience. Students will be journaling their experiences daily, creating a written documentation of their trip to accompany the recorded documentation. As a long-range outcome, we hope to be able to return to Guinea to teach the art of reading music, thus opening the door for world music to be studied there. Upon our return, we will be adding what we’ve learned to our performances.
Total cost – approximately $4,000 per person.