With funding awarded from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation, Ethnomusicologist and Curry Music Faculty Member Emily Howe will travel to Trinidad and Tobago next summer to research music, cultural performance, and festival in the Caribbean nation.
The Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation awards funding to Boston-area college faculty members to support research in a location other than that with which the faculty member is most closely associated, with the goal of enhancing classroom instruction. Howe’s project, which explores music and dance as a lens into the resilience and ingenuity of Black, Indigenous, and Asian peoples in the face of slavery, colonization, and systemic oppression in Trinidad and Tobago, will help to forward her broader efforts to spearhead inclusive, culturally responsive, and community-engaged music curricula at Curry.
Howe originally planned to complete her project in the summer of 2021 but has delayed her travel in light of the ongoing struggle against COVID-19 in Trinidad and Tobago. She now plans to spend four weeks between the two islands in July and August 2022; during that time, she will conduct field research at Trinidad’s Emancipation Day Festival, the world’s longest-running festival commemorating the abolition of slavery and one of the foremost festivals celebrating African and Afrodiasporic traditions, and Tobago’s Heritage Festival, a celebration of Tobago’s multicultural heritage. Taken together, these two festivals provide insight into the nation’s African roots as well as the cultural practices forged through processes of colonization, slavery, migration, and globalization; by documenting music and dance performances at both festivals and through additional contextual research at the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago, Howe will return to Curry with a rich archive of materials with which her students can engage in order to consider the histories and legacies of cultural contact which have shaped artistic production throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.
Since joining Curry as Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Music in Fall 2020, Howe has led new, creative programming for the Music program enabling students to explore music as a lens into local and global histories and cultures.
“A central component of the Curry College mission is to prepare students for active citizenship with a global perspective, and I can think of few better ways to achieve this goal than by giving students the opportunity to study music,” she says. “In music classes at Curry, we train students to listen carefully, to think critically, and to interpret music’s meaning within its specific historical and cultural context. In doing so, we hope that students become thoughtful, empathetic listeners attuned to the particular values, joys, and struggles of diverse individuals and communities – values, joys, and struggles that are so often articulated through people’s musical practices.”
Discussing the significance of the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation Grant in the context of this broader agenda, Howe says, “it’s an honor to have been selected for this grant, and it’s exciting that the Foundation has recognized the importance of music studies as a part of the undergraduate experience.”
Howe is excited to explore the sights and sounds of the Caribbean with her students a bit closer to home in the not-too-distant future. For the upcoming fall semester, she and her students will attend Cambridge Carnival, where they will celebrate the many contributions of the Caribbean community to life in greater Boston. “The festival has been dormant because of the pandemic,” notes Howe, “but that doesn’t mean the music ever truly stopped. After a challenging year that has disproportionately affected communities of color, it will be a powerful and moving experience to come together and share in this festival rooted in African traditions, which in varied global contexts has long signified resilience and joy in the face of oppression and struggle.”
“I truly believe that the experience of being involved in a research project like this will help inspire Curry students towards lifelong learning and global citizenship,” Howe concludes. “As they experience the music of Caribbean festival from Boston to Trinidad and Tobago and back, Curry students will have the opportunity to listen and think critically about the local and global cultural flows which shape all of our lives. It is an honor and a privilege to begin this project with the support of the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation.”