Berklee today

OCT 2015

Berklee today is the official alumni publication of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. It is a forum for contemporary music and musicians.

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Page 24 of 44

22 Berklee today Our cab wends its way along the dusty winding road lead- ing out of the tiny airport in Ibagué, Colombia toward the city center. The car windows frame the landscape, scenes of grassy felds interspersed with clusters of humble, sin- gle-story masonry homes with tile or rusty corrugated metal roofs. There are also farm women and shirtless men hawking fruits and vegetables from tables barely off the road's shoul- der, and feral dogs meandering in search of scraps of food or shade from the blazing July sun. The panorama is underscored by a soundtrack of Spanish-language songs on the cab's crackling radio speaker, hot wind rushing through the open windows, and a steady road buzz frequently punctuated by the honking horns of impatient fellow travelers. The scenario morphs as we approach Ibagué's city center with its busy streets choked with darting motorbikes, cars, trucks, city buses, and steel-nerved pedestrians. Old-world bo- degas, butcher shops, sidewalk bakeries, car repair shops, and other humble establishments abut blocks with more modern restaurants and malls. The cab jerks to a stop in front of Ibagué's Hotel Dulima, where Berklee's senior vice president for institu- tional advancement, Cindy Albert Link; music therapy professor, Karen Wacks; and I are to meet with Berklee students Ana Maria Villa and Esteban Roa. Here in Ibagué, dubbed "La Ciudad Musical de Colombia" (the musical city of Colombia), Villa and Roa—two music therapy (MT) majors and Colombian nationals—have come to gain hands-on experience in a fve-week feld study. The goal is to as- sess the role MT can play in helping with the country's deepest social problem: knitting together the fabric of Colombian society torn through years of brutal internal confict. Wacks, who de- signed activities for these experiential-learning efforts, is here to observe her students. She and Link will also discuss with staff members of the Agency for Colombian Reintegration or ACR, fu- ture possibilities and logistics for Berklee-trained music thera- pists to help in the reintegration efforts. A History Lesson For fve decades, civil war has scourged Colombia. According to Colombia's National Center for Historical Memory, more than 220,000 people (most of them civilians) have been killed in the confict. Peace negotiations between the Colombian govern- ment and FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the country's largest left-wing guerilla group, have been ongoing in Havana since November 2012. The primary struggle waged by the FARC revolutionary Marxists against the Colombian gov- ernment became very complicated when other combatants entered the fray. They include paramilitaries opposed to FARC and criminal entities battling for domination of Colombia's cocaine trade. The turmoil has resulted in some 7 million Colombians petitioning the government for status as victims of the war. They include those displaced by the fghting, kid- nap victims, families of the disappeared, and those wounded by landmines or otherwise directly injured by the violence. In anticipation of a peace accord, the Colombian government established ACR, an initiative to reintegrate into society the ex- combatants and civilian victims of the confict. Sadly, many Colombian youths in poverty-stricken neighborhoods join the paramilitary groups just as their contemporaries in other coun- tries might join gangs or ISIS. Berklee's involvement with ACR began in 2012 when fve members of a Berklee team were in Bogotá conducting audi- tions and interviews. They met with Alejandro Eder, the exec- utive director of ACR, about the possibility of a collaboration with Berklee's MT Department. Link, Wacks, and vice president for enrollment Mark Campbell returned for subsequent meet- ings with ACR staff members and ex-combatants in Ibagué and Bogotá. Those discussions paved the way for another visit in 2013 by Link, Wacks, and assistant professor Kimberly Khare for MT presentations and a training workshop for facilitators of the "Soy Capaz" ("I Can") project. (The Soy Capaz campaign has en- listed top Colombian celebrity athletes and musicians, along with leaders from education, business, and religious groups to help with the reconciliation efforts.) This exchange of ideas pro- vided the Berklee contingent with insights into ACR and its pro- cess and led directly to the fve-week feld study that Wacks designed with Villa and Roa. In October 2014, after VIlla performed at the Music Therapy Global Symposium, Wacks shared details of the emerging Colombia project with Villa. She told Wacks to sign her on for the project. "I love music and I love my country," Villa told me in July after lunch at Hotel Dulima. "I didn't know about ACR and their reintegration project until recently. I think it represents something very positive as we seek peace. So many people here are struggling to get onto the right track so that we can all live harmoniously." "I'd had an interest in coming back to Colombia," Roa says, "when Karen [Wacks] talked to me about this initiative. I felt that it was extremely important for Colombian students to be part of it because we are familiar with the confict and know the cul- Deploying the Power of Music By Mark Small A collaborative effort between a government agency and Berklee music therapy faculty members and students provides a glimmer of hope for healing in Colombia. Left: Cindy Albert Link and Ana Maria Villa; center: Diego Julián Jones Navas, Juliana A. Hernandez Cortes, and Edwin Moreno Lozano of ACR; right: Esteban Roa and Karen Wacks Mark Small EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

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