Reimagining the Global Music Ensemble is a two-year project that seeks to broaden the artistic vision and leadership of Carleton’s West African Rhythm Ensemble, motivated by current major cultural shifts including the Black Lives Matter movement.  The project will gather together ensemble directors, educators, researchers, faculty, students, musicians, and the general public, to critically examine representation, roles and structures in post-secondary “world music” ensembles.  Through collaborative discussion we will explore established and emerging models towards improving and expanding experiential learning opportunities for students at Carleton.

Carleton’s West African Rhythm Ensemble (WARE) belongs to a tradition of global music ensembles found in many music programs in post-secondary institutions across North America and throughout the world.  While such ensembles offer valuable experiential learning about diverse (often non-Western) music cultures, they can also become a form of cultural tourism that simply reinforces the dominance of Western music and pedagogy in the academy. WARE is founded on professional expertise, teachings of culture bearers, and an ongoing deep relationship with the Ghanaian community, yet events of 2020 produced a major cultural shift and an urgency towards finding new approaches in leadership, repertoire, collaboration and intercultural transmission of knowledge for this ensemble. This project asks: What is a responsible model for a global music ensemble in post-secondary music studies now?

This project seeks to reimagine the global music ensemble, diversifying repertoire, expanding arts disciplines and making it more accessible to students from a wide range of programs in Carleton’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. During the 2021-2022 academic year, the project will engage in consultation and dialogue with faculty and students in the Music program of the School for Studies in Art and Culture (SSAC), the Institute for African Studies (IAS), and across the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). The project will seek input and expertise from identified culture-bearers, ethnomusicologists and those leading global music ensembles in post-secondary educational settings. Identifying current strengths and challenges facing intercultural learning, the project will examine best practices towards respectful and equitable engagement with African music and other arts, related to identified pedagogical goals. This project will develop strategies and opportunities for a pilot year in 2022-2023, in which WARE will expand and deepen the positive educational and participatory experience for students at Carleton University and the local community. The pilot year will provide information and recommendations for moving forward in a sustainable way.

Project lead: Kathy Armstrong

The Project’s plan consists of four stages:

  1. Research and Consulting (August 2021 – April 2022)
  2. Planning and Development (January 2022 – August 2022)
  3. Pilot year of the reimagined ensemble (September 2022- April 2023)
  4. Knowledge Mobilization (April 2023-)

Visit project website for more information.