New Americans Share Music and Stories with Music Faculty and Students

Narrative 4 Concordia kicked off National Welcoming Week for New Americans in Fargo-Moorhead by hosting a story exchange between immigrants, music faculty and students the beginning of September.

Dr. Dawn Duncan, professor of English and Narrative 4 Master Practitioner, and Dr. Nat Dickey, associate professor of music, planned and facilitated the exchange. The theme was “Music as the Story of Our Lives.” Each participant selected a piece of music that is significant in their culture/lives, played it and shared their story with their partner. The participants represented a wide range of cultures: United States, Ireland, Armenia, Vietnam, Hungary, Iraq, Algeria, Somalia and South Sudan. During the exchange, each musical selection was played as stories were told.

“Across human cultures, music plays an important role in people’s lives, expressing a range of emotions, deepening meaning and weaving memories,” Dickey says.

This cross-cultural music event happened at the prompting of the people who participated in welcoming week last year. Duncan facilitated a Narrative 4 exchange and Dickey participated in it. The New Americans said they wanted to find ways to share their music.

“The narrative combined with the music created a mental-emotional link, and the cultural component spoke deeply of our lives and introduced us to new musical sounds,” Duncan says.

In preparation for the event, each participant was asked to think of a piece of music and a story of why it matters as they considered questions such as: What piece of music takes you back to your childhood and a fond memory? What piece of music is closely associated with family gatherings? What piece of music do you think of when you want to share your culture with someone else and why does this piece come to mind?

“The stories that were told had deep emotional content, some tragic, some comic, some joyous, some contemplative – many with multiple layers,” Dickey says. “The musical sharing deepened and enriched the meaning of the stories that were told and the bond created among the participants.”

The weekend became a symphony of “connectedness,” the word that came up most often in reflection. The sounds were as various as the people, but Duncan says everyone felt cared for and heard.