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Professor shares her love of Brazil with students through tour of country
Professor shares her love of Brazil with students through tour of countryMay 06, 2004Cynthia J. Moritzcjmoritz@syr.edu
Elisa Dekaney, assistant professor of music education in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, loves the culture of her native Brazil, so much so that she wanted to share it with her students. So she; her husband Josh Dekaney, an affiliate artist in VPA; and Joseph Downing, director of the Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music in VPA, approached the Division of International Programs Abroad (DIPA) with the idea of leading a group of students to Brazil to study the country’s art and culture for credit.
“I wanted to open the students’ multicultural awareness and increase their ethnic tolerance,” Elisa Dekaney says, “and give them an appreciation for what we have in the U.S. as well as what people have in other countries.” She also wanted to share the culture she loves with others. Joshua Dekaney is American, but very interested in Brazilian music-he and his wife founded SU’s Brazilian Ensemble.
“DIPA agreed, and 15 students enrolled in a one-credit course, the Culture and Art of Brazil. They left for South America on March 5 and spent their spring break learning about another culture. Most of the students were education or music education students, but a few were from The College of Arts and Sciences and the Martin J. Whitman School of Management.
The first city the group visited was Salvador, which is on the country’s Atlantic coast and is noted for its African-influenced culture. “It is famous for having the most African culture outside of Africa,” Elisa Dekaney says. After Salvador, the group visited Rio de Janeiro.
In both places, the students visited churches, museums, monuments and other tourist attractions. They also visited music schools in both cities and listened to much Brazilian music.
“Not every school in Brazil offers music,” Elisa Dekaney says, “so there are lots of extracurricular music classes offered.”
In Rio, the students visited a school for underprivileged children from the city’s vast shantytown. This was a learning experience for Elisa Dekaney as well-she had never seen the shantytown before.
The students had to do more than act as tourists. Before they left, each student was required to research and put together a report on some aspect of Brazilian culture. During the trip, they had to present their research on such topics as African slavery in Brazil, Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art), Brazilian poetry, traditional food of Brazil and Bossa Nova music.
For one participant-Ellen Fallon, an instructor in The College of Arts and Sciences’ Writing Program-the trip was unforgettable. Says Fallon, “Words can’t express the experience. I’d have to write a poem. Thinking about Brazil conjures up so much saudades [longing] – It was magnificently opulent.”
While the trip was a chance for Elisa Dekaney to visit her native country, it didn’t give her much of a chance to see her family. The busy itinerary allowed only “quick visits at airports,” she says.
Elisa Dekaney hopes to lead students on a similar trip every other year. “I want to see if I can give them a little glimpse of what Brazilian culture is about,” she says.