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College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences
Hometown: Omak, Washington
That’s how you say “thank you” in Ghana, and music major MaryEllen Rose-Witt is saying it a lot.
She's thankful because Rose-Witt was one of only ten music students to travel to the small West African country to study traditional dancing and drumming. The trip was organized by by Lionel Hampton School of Music professor Barry Bilderback, and Rose-Witt says was a “life changing experience.”
“We learned to play and dance the Kpalago in daily group lessons. We performed for the local king of Nunga, as well as West African television, TV3.”
The group also visited the Kakum National Park where they walked along suspension walkways that extended one hundred feet above the ground, and explored castles that were used in the slave trade. However, the thing that made the most lasting impression was the people.
“Their consistent hospitality and joy brought a whole new idea to ‘a way of life.’”
Of which, music is a very important part.
“I noticed was there was music ALL THE TIME! Music and dancing are part of everyday life. Children are brought up that way.”
She also noticed a difference between the way music is practiced and learned in the United States compared to Ghana.
“Some people say that in America we tend to practice music more linearly. It's on paper, Start to finish, methodical...where as in Ghana we learned a lot of stuff by ear. Rather than looking at music we learned music by ear and listening for aural cues. . . Another thing I noticed as a difference was the the idea of practicing. As a music major, we go practice in a room (rehearsal or solo). In Ghana it involves everybody. . . anybody can jump in at any point.”
Finally, she said the entire approach is more “laid-back.”
“People (in Ghana) understand that making mistakes is how you learn, it's part of life.”