Baylor Music Student Helps Provides Opportunity For Nepali Music Teachers

July 22, 2010

Follow us on Twitter: @BaylorUMediaCom

What would happen to music if there was not a music education system in place? After being in Nepal for 10 months, Robert Moore did not have to ask. He saw the effects of this problem firsthand.

In his time in Kathmandu, Nepal, Moore, who graduated from Baylor in May of 2009 with a bachelor's degree in music education and is a Fulbright scholarship recipient, played a large role in establishing the first professional society for music teachers in Nepal, the Nepal Music Educators' Society (NMES); writing a music curriculum; and writing a method book for the madal, the Nepali national folk drum.

Robert Moore

"The government in Nepal doesn't support music education to any practical extent," Moore said. "Many music teachers there are trained as performers and teach only because it is a job. They have nowhere to go to learn things like lesson planning, rehearsing, music notation, curriculum, classroom management and performance organization."

Sumit Pokhrel is just one of the Nepali music teachers who will benefit from Moore's work in Nepal, but his benefit will take him all the way to Beijing. When the opportunity arose for Pokhrel to attend the International Society for Music Education (ISME) conference in Beijing, Moore nominated him. Pokhrel was unable to come up with the money, so Moore sold copies of his madal method book to Baylor professors to raise the money to send Pokhrel to the conference.

In a recent interview, Moore described his work in Nepal and his efforts to get Pokhrel to the ISME conference.

Q: How long were you in Nepal?

Moore: I was there for 10 months.

Q: Why did you choose Nepal?

Moore: I wanted to choose a place that would be financially difficult for me to get to on my own. I sent some emails around and got a really great response from a ethnomusicologist in Nepal, so I decided to go there.

Q: What part of Nepal were you in?

Moore: I spent most of my time in the capital city, Kathmandu. I did a trek through Pokhara and had a really nice view of the mountains in the background. I also got to visit Lumbini, the place Buddha was born, and that was pretty cool.

Q: Did you experience a language barrier while in Kathmandu?

Moore: Not at all really; Kathmandu has a lot of influence from British and India, and most people there not only know English well, but can speak four different languages. I did, however, become conversational in Nepali.

Q: When did you first get into music and why?

Moore: I played piano before, but I began playing the clarinet in the fifth grade. I actually wanted to play the saxophone, but my dad saw how expensive it was and kind of steered me towards the clarinet.

Q: Why do you think music education is important?

Moore: In many ways, music teaches culture. I also think important values, like leadership and dedication, are taught through music. Music is also a fun way to keep students interested in something constructive. Music is just a good way to communicate. When I play my clarinet, musicians from all over the world understand me, no matter what language I speak.

Q: What was your first meeting with Sumit like?

Moore: I met Sumit through the music teacher training program I was a part of in Kathmandu. From the very beginning, he was incredibly motivated and you could tell he was there because he wanted to be. He did not have a big budget, but still found a way to attend the workshops because he knew they were going to benefit him.

Q: What was your initial reaction to the different political situation in Nepal?

Moore: It was frustrating, but one of those things you just had to get used to. There was fighting between political parties, which caused a lot of strikes and a lot of businesses being closed. The strikes cut a whole week out of one of our workshops.

Q: How do you think your experience in Nepal will affect your career as a music teacher?

Moore: Being in Nepal gave me a really broad look at music education. Music education in Nepal is not sponsored by anything, and it was cool to see how it just fits in without any encouragement. I also got to see some of the problems facing music education in Third World countries, and hopefully one day I can address those.

Q: Did you ever feel like you were stepping on anyone's toes by teaching music instructors how to do their job?

Moore: I was a little nervous at first because it felt a little like I was imposing my culture on them, but they were eager to learn so I was not going to hold back.

Q: Did the Nepali music teachers teach you anything?

Moore: The whole process was an open flow of ideas, so definitely. They have a lot of good ideas, just not the aids such as administration and lesson plans to make it happen.

Q: How long did it take you to complete the madal book?

Moore: Three months

Q: How did you come up with the idea to sell the madal book to send Sumit to the ISME conference?

Moore: Sumit had been offered this amazing deal by ISME. They were going to pay for his accommodations, visa and airfare, but it still left him with about $400 to $500 to come up with on his own. Sumit knew he could not pay that and still afford to feed his family. That was when I thought about asking some professors for help. I didn't want to just ask for money outright, so I added the idea of selling the madal book. The professors I asked were ones I had a conversational relationship with and ones that were instrumental in helping me apply for the Fulbright.

Q: What do you hope Sumit will gain from going to the conference?

Moore: I hope he will get a bigger sense of what music education is and what it is like in other parts of the world, because there is no way to understand it if you don't see it. I also hope the conference will raise the standard in his mind of what music education can be.

Pokhrel has similar goals for himself at the conference, which will take place August 1-6.

"During the ISME conference, I look forward to meeting well-experienced music educators with whom I expect to exchange ideas and widen my knowledge of the field to bring new changes in the current music conditions in Nepal," he said.

Pokhrel, who has taught music for 20 years, is also thankful for Moore and his work in Nepal.

"I take it as a blessing in disguise that he has helped me believe in myself and open my heart to music even more," Pokhrel said.

by Diamond Richardson, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

Looking for more news from Baylor University?