American poet Henry Longfellow said that music is the universal language, and looking at the Department of Music‘s Jazz Bridge project, led by Associate Professor and Director of Jazz Studies Antonio J. García, we think Longfellow was on to something!
Jazz Bridge is a collaborative research and performance project funded by a grant from VCU’s Global Education Office. Bringing together students and faculty from the Jazz Studies programs of VCU and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, participating musicians meet in person, compose original works and rehearse in person and through digital collaboration.
“The arts, and perhaps various musical genres in particular, provide the bridge that allows representatives from different cultures to trust each other so as to make new inroads of exploration and study possible,” said Antonio García, pictured second from left. “After dialoguing with non-music colleagues overseas, I am convinced that researchers in the sciences would do well first to establish community links via the arts, even if their ultimate goal is then to proceed towards scientific data and action. The arts speak to everyone; and without community trust, little else is possible.”
Jazz Bridge improves cross-cultural understanding of underserved communities by bringing scholars and students of African-based music to VCU’s campus, and then to UKZN’s campus, to examine curricula that prepare students for a global future and deliver concerts and recordings that highlight the African influence on jazz. In 2013, as a result of this collaboration, musicians were invited to perform at the official U.S. memorial service for Nelson Mandela, held at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.
To learn more about this and other VCUarts research projects, head over to our digital version of the “Arts + Design Research at the University of Yes” publication.