WIU School of Music Professors Travel to Myanmar
March 2, 2016
MACOMB, IL - - Through a partnership established by the Western Illinois University School of Music in November 2015, School of Music Director Tammie Walker and Associate Professor of Music Richard Cangro traveled to Myanmar to provide professional development for music teachers of the International Language and Business Center (ILBC).
A memorandum of understanding was previously established between WIU and the ILBC after WIU President Jack Thomas and WIU Director of the School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach Rick Carter visited the country in 2013. Following this visit, the ILBC sent several teachers to study at WIU for one month in 2014.
A second visit in Spring 2015, with a different group, included an opportunity for the Myanmar teachers to experience two music sessions during their month long stay. With the help of Khaing Saw, a Burmese citizen and technology staff at the School of Music, a plan was underway for Walker and Cangro to travel to Myanmar to teach music education and piano pedagogy to the ILBC music teachers. With the details confirmed, both WIU professors traveled overseas during one of the most exciting political times in Myanmar.
"Democratic elections were being held on the day of our arrival, Nov. 8, 2015," said Cangro. "Many citizens were seen with their pinkies coated in ink as an outward sign of their voting participation. Though it may have been a scary time to travel, the Myanmar hosts were incredibly gracious and hospitable. There was no evidence of unrest or unruliness."
Walker said it was a "thrill and privilege" to represent the WIU School of Music in Yangon, Myanmar.
"I lectured on piano pedagogy and technique to a class of 26 music teachers for three hours/day, and we formed great bonds of understanding and common purpose," said Walker. "The students were receptive, gracious, eager and bright … it was such a rewarding educational outreach venture at so many levels."
Each day, Walker and Cangro taught six hours of professional development at ILBC, with topics including music education in the 21st century, assessing music achievement, writing effective lesson plans, piano pedagogy, piano literature, playing technique and piano teaching tips. Though there was a slight language difficulty, most teachers spoke English well enough to be able to translate any difficult concepts to each other.
"Some of the most memorable times were when we would come back from lunch and find the teachers already in the room singing together or performing for each other," Cangro said. "The music never stopped for them. "
At the closing ceremony, Walker and Cangro performed a brief piano and trumpet recital for ILBC teachers and upper grade students.
"We had one day to practice, but were at least mentally prepared beforehand," said Cangro. "Following our performance, the teachers then formed a chorus and sang to us. It was so touching to see and hear these wonderful people share their love of music and show their appreciation for our work."
Following the first week, Walker returned to Western, while Cangro traveled to Mandalay to provide professional development for teachers in that area's ILBC schools.
Yangon has a population of about five million people, while Mandalay has around one million people.
"It is easy to fall in love with the sights, the food and the people of Myanmar," said Cangro. "WIU and the School of Music plan to continue this collaboration with the ILBC teachers."
A new group of teachers will be studying educational leadership at WIU in Spring 2016. There will also be a Cultural Café March 29 that will feature food and information about Myanmar. Future plans could also include a study abroad opportunity.
For more information about the WIU School of Music, visit wiu.edu/music.