Published: Oct. 20, 2015 By

music with a mission, part two

Megan Gore teaches music to students in Uganda as part of a summer mission; Joel Schut poses with other musicians in Myanmar.

The ability of music to bring together people from different backgrounds to improve lives is sending Music Buffs to all corners of the globe. From Africa to the Middle East to Southeast Asia, University of Colorado Boulder students and alumni are forging connections through music.

Recently we talked to classical guitarist Patrick Sutton (DMA ’14) about his work in Egypt, South Africa and Afghanistan. Now, meet two more members of the College of Music community who are taking their passion for music to new levels.

Megan Gore: igniting hope in Uganda

For 11 days in July, double bass performance major Megan Gore looked poverty in the face in the mid-sized city of Mbarara, Uganda. But everywhere she looked, despite the conditions, she also saw hope.

“Many of them lived in uncomfortable conditions, and or have to walk miles to work or school every day,” Gore says. “It was remarkable that these people had been through so much, and yet they were just so joyful and happy.”

Gore and one more volunteer taught music at seven area schools through the Parental Care Ministries program. They also visited an orphanage and a women’s prison. Gore says she was struck by the joy and energy with which people pursued music—and every aspect of their lives. “As much as I taught the Ugandans about music, they taught me something very important as well: at all times, stay energetic and passionate about life—no matter what comes your way.”

Before Gore arrived, another group of volunteers donated string instruments; she brought the bows and the rosin and the lessons began. She says the children were hungry for knowledge. “It was their first time being exposed to music, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me to be there. The children knew about music, but to show them how to play and take care of an instrument was really cool. They soaked it up like sponges.”

The San Diego native, who previously spent time as a missionary in Belize and Cuba, says this was the first time she was able to meld mission work and music. The result was a rekindled passion for her craft. “This trip lit a fuse in me for teaching. I love kids, so if I can show them music, that’s great. It’s really important as a musician to give back to the community.

“They reminded me that, at all times, it’s an absolute privilege to play music, and to be able to share and collaborate with others,” Gore adds.

The senior hopes to go back to Africa and continue her work. “Uganda is a beautiful place filled with some of the friendliest people I've ever met,” Gore says. “I cannot wait to return.”

Joel Schut: renaissance in Myanmar

Ever since the end of military rule in Myanmar in 2011, foreign businesses have been flooding the resource-rich nation, hoping to get in on the ground floor of a revitalized economy.

For 2012 orchestral conducting master’s graduate Joel Schut, the cultural reawakening is just as important. “Artistic development needs to happen at the same rate as economic development in order for a nation to thrive,” he says.

Schut recently returned from a three-week stint as artist faculty at the Myanmar Music Festival. In its second year, the event was created to promote arts education and give up-and-coming musicians a place to collaborate with other local and international performers.

“Cultural dialogue is at the heart of the project,” Schut says. “We traveled to several cities playing recitals and presenting master classes at schools, hospitals and theaters. We played a private concert for a woman who had been under house arrest for 20 years during the military junta. Hearing her speak about her vision for access to music and education for all was amazing.”

Schut, who like Patrick Sutton has also traveled with Cultures in Harmony and to the National Institute of Music in Kabul, is now teaching band at Okemos High School in Michigan. He says what he’s learned abroad is informing his teaching at home. “To bring experiences and stories back to my students, to help them imagine themselves interacting with a different world, is huge.

“I always tell my students that I’ve learned the most in my life from a block of wood under my chin and a bow in my hand—while I was making music.”

Schut says he wants to continue to travel the world making and teaching music. “Parts of the world are so hungry for cultural and economic growth, and as someone who strives to be a leader in education and youth outreach, I’d love to be a part of that.”