Transatlantic course raises new questions

– Our new intercultural course has given our music students new perspectives on things they used to take for granted. This has had a big influence, ranging from reflections about the teacher’s role to discussions about course content, says Maria Westvall, lecturer in music education at Örebro University in Sweden, about a course which the School of Music, Theatre and Art is organising together with the University of Delaware in the US.

The group in frpn of the White House.

The group in front of the White House.

Maria Westvall along with Suzanne Burton, associate professor of music education at the University of Delaware, created a course that has one foot in Sweden and one in the United States. Half of the students come from the School of Music, Theatre and Art in Örebro and the other half comes from the University of Delaware.

– We have joint lectures via video conference and the students participate in one week of field studies in Sweden and one in the US, says Maria Westvall.

The primary purpose of the course is for students to experience music education and the art and culture of another country. Visiting each others’ countries leads the students to discuss and question things that they previously took for granted.

Maria and Dr. Burton

– For example, there was a heated discussion on how teachers are addressed in Sweden and the United States. Since the Swedish students call their teacher by her first name, Maria, and the American students addressed me as Dr. Burton, we explored the roots of why this is so in each others’ cultures, says Suzanne Burton.

– Including pop and rock in teacher training was also new to the American students. In the U.S., that sort of music is seen as inappropriate in schools but after having experienced the Swedish model the students questioned that assumption. In one of my courses, I have changed my design to include pop and rock pedagogy, says Suzanne Burton.

– The Swedish students participated in early childhood music classes while at the University of Delaware. It is not a big field in Sweden but is well-established at the University of Delaware. This is an area we could develop here, says Maria Westvall.

One week in Sweden and one in the U.S.

This week Suzanne Burton and Maria Westvall met in Örebro to evaluate the course and to discuss how they will proceed. They also worked on the joint research project concerning intercultural issues and the music teacher training programme. Suzanne Burton also gave lectures to the students and research students at the School of Music, Theatre and Art. Next week, Maria Westvall will travel to the University of Delaware to lecture there.

– The course will definitely be offered again. The results have been very positive for all parties concerned, conclude Maria Westvall and Suzanne Burton.

Text: Linda Harradine
Translation: Veronika Sjöholm
Photo: Örebro universitet, University of Delaware