Above and Beyond
Last spring, Mollie Stone '01 observed music's ability to transcend language and culture when she spent the semester in South Africa teaching music to local children.

Her stay in Africa involved a homestay in the town of Langa and a stay in the township of Manenberg to teach choir. Although she learned how to speak Xhosa, the language of Langa, Stone still faced a language barrier because most of her students in Manenberg spoke Afrikaans. Music helped her overcome this challenge. "Through music you can spark a friendship with someone and not even speak their language," she said.

Since there is no form of musical education in African schools, Stone was left to her own devices to develop and implement a curriculum. One of the highlights of her semester was finding ways to make music more accessible to her younger students.

Stone developed her interest in Africa in her junior year of high school when she toured South Africa as a member of the Chicago Children's Choir. "Ever since then, I knew that I wanted to go back and learn more about South African choral music and its function in society, especially during the freedom struggles-the apartheid years," she explained.

Subsequently, Stone researched South African music but was frustrated by the limited information available. She explained that part of the difficulty is that sheet music does not help one to understand the music of a culture whose emphasis is oral, not written.

For Stone the decision to stray from the traditional study abroad programs seemed natural. "You can go to Europe anytime," she said. "But to go to Africa, to live in Africa, how often do you get to do that?"

Determined to see firsthand the role of music in black South Africa, Stone focused on "how people use music as means of expressing and creating social identity amidst political change."

She plans to use her experience to give workshops on African music in the Pioneer Valley and Chicago.

Issue 03, Submitted 2000-09-19 20:38:10
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