Lecture Series welcomes Armor to talk music around the world

Categories:  Music    The Arts
Friday, October 11th, 2019 at 11:14 AM

“There are differences, but there is a common humanity.”

That was Bob Rhodes, coordinator of the Al Stone Lecture Series, reflecting on the Oct. 3 installment of the series, titled “Songs That Disarm and Charm.” The lecture was given by Kelly Armor, folk art director at Erie Arts and Culture, and it touched on children’s songs from all over the world. 

The talk allowed the audience to hear the traditional music that people from places like Bosnia, Ukraine, Iraq and Sudan sing to their children. As Armor described them, the songs are like “little ambassadors” from each of the countries, allowing them to highlight what each culture values.

According to Rhodes, the lecture series has been around for many years, but for the fall semester, he said, “[I] wanted to have several programs on immigration at various levels.”

As he explained, this talk accomplished that goal by explaining child immigration. “What Kelly Armor does is use music as a way of explaining that children are very similar regardless of the radical differences in their culture.”

He went on to say, “It says something about the humanity of immigrants and migrants all over the world.”

This is a sentiment that Armor echoed in the lecture quite a bit. To her, the examples used are sweet songs that connect people from all over the world. In addition, the songs are meant to show the beauty in other cultures, or as she puts it, “these are the songs people sing to their children; these cultures are not evil.”

In addition, she emphasized the importance of teaching children music. Once she brought music into the classroom, the children who normally wouldn’t speak much immediately lit up. This was especially true when immigrant children heard songs from their native countries.

Armor believes the reason there was no music in these classes is because they’re being taught by “westerners who don’t think they can sing.” Her opinion is the same as many of the west African cultures she studies — anyone can sing.

As she explained, an example of this was a preschool teacher who used these songs in his classroom. She said he would chant instead of singing and it worked all the same. It still got the kids engaged.

Due to the fact that the tunes and lyrics are very simple, the songs can be utilized in classrooms to get students to pay attention, such as when waiting for their name to be called. Songs, according to the lecture, can also be used to spur collaboration (think clean-up songs from kindergarten).

Armor also pointed out that both small children and babies should be sung to. She believes it helps them connect with their parents in a way nothing else can. Even baby talk, according to the lecture, is innately musical, helping them to learn mouth shapes and sounds.

Through watching these kids and teaching them music, Armor said, “We can all learn just about joy and openness, because kids have that in such abundance.”

If there’s anything Armor wants people to take away from her talk, it’s that, “Music is about building community, it’s not having a beautiful voice, it’s building a community and having an open heart.”

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