Live-streamed performance & intercultural education: Creative solutions to online world music pedagogy in the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond


Abstract: This article provides creative solutions for online world music pedagogy that were developed in response to the widespread need for digital education during the Covid-19 pandemic. Innovations in the synchronous presentation of online music courses and performances influenced the authors to collaborate on ways to create space for interaction between students and musicians who share their music and experiences as cultural experts. This approach led to the development of the World Music Guest Artist Series, which allows for experiential learning and intercultural exchange through live-streamed performances and interviews with musicians in various global genres and locations. In mapping out the process, experiences, and benefits of our partnership for educators, students, and musicians, we ultimately intend to showcase our model to higher music educators that endeavor to foster experiential learning and intercultural dialogue in their classrooms through collaboration with cultural mediators, whether in a virtual or in-person learning environment.

Keywords: World Music, Pedagogy, Covid-19, Intercultural Education, Online Teaching, Collaboration, Coronavirus, Cultural Studies

This article addresses a shift in world music pedagogy towards a collaborative model conceived and executed during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, bridging educators and musicians from various global locations, cultural perspectives, and genres. From redesigning online rehearsals because of sound delay and latency issues to creating new arrangements for socially distanced, in-person ensembles alongside the development of strategies for classroom access, music educators have drastically transformed their approaches to teaching during this time.[1] Whether teaching performance or lecture-based courses, and often at the expense of providing the robust instruction that was offered pre-pandemic, educators have had to alter their pedagogical methods including content delivery and assessments. In the context of teaching world music survey courses in tertiary education, these shifts affect collaborations between instructors and guest musicians who are often invited to the classroom, as cultural mediators, to provide live performances.[2]

It is under these new circumstances that the authors seek to find ways to sustain relationships between musicians and students through online teaching platforms. When challenged with the need to create new pedagogical tactics, the authors developed a model for musical and intercultural education in the early pandemic that led to numerous benefits for musicians and students alike. We purposefully choose the term intercultural over multicultural as the focus is on the exchange of dialogue and communication about cultural values between individuals. While the prefix ‘multi-’ implies a context of many, the prefix ‘inter-’ implies a betweenness. Therefore, multicultural constitutes the mere existence of multiple cultural representatives in the same space whereas intercultural comprises engagement between them, indexing active and purposeful exchanges among people from various cultural backgrounds. We, the authors—a professor and a guest artist ensemble, the Maharajah Flamenco Trio—offer this article as an extensive discussion of the benefits of educational intercultural exchange and elucidate our employed pedagogical model. Through this work, we provide a roadmap for collaboration between performers and academics that accomplishes learning outcomes for the students while meeting the artistic and professional objectives of the performers. In mapping out the process, experiences, and benefits of our partnership, we ultimately intend to showcase our model to higher music educators that endeavor to foster experiential learning and intercultural dialogue in their classrooms through collaboration with cultural mediators, whether in a virtual or in-person learning environment.



The significance of our work and this publication is multifaceted. While scholars such as Patricia Shehan Campbell discuss methodologies for teaching world music that include collaborations with guest performers as cultural mediators, extant literature rarely outlines the practicalities of creating such partnerships.[3] Furthermore, there are no publications that detail the importance, benefits, and processes of continuing pedagogical work with live performers as cultural mediators during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the world music classroom, experiencing live performance with guest musicians and engaging in dialogue with them that focuses on the sharing, discussion, and appreciation of diverse forms of human expression is one way students can develop greater cultural competence to better understand themselves and others. This type of experiential learning is essential to providing students with a critical and holistic education that centres the sociocultural aspects of music. Fostering cultural knowledge, appreciation, and respect fundamentally constitutes an important component of world music courses, in addition to acquiring listening skills pertaining to the discernment of various music genres around the globe.[4]

An important element of our pedagogical approach moves beyond lecture or the simple relay of information to students and, instead, involves their active classroom engagement. In this context, lessons expand on the content itself and into critical thought on how and why people create music and the meaning that it provides in their lives. The need for such experiential teaching methods became even more significant at the start of the pandemic both in a humanistic sense—due to widespread social isolation and disconnection from previously constituted forms of social interaction—and in terms of communicating information about music and cultural practices themselves, which became harder due to asynchronous methods of online learning such as having students watch pre-recorded lectures. In such asynchronous learning formats, students are distanced from the professor and they are unable to ask clarifying questions, engage in guided music-making activities with the teacher as facilitator, and/or may be dealing with at-home distractions or caretaking needs during lessons. These circumstances make it particularly difficult for students of various learning styles to critically comprehend and apply the knowledge that they are supposed to have been learning in the classroom. As Luttrel et al. explain, “Dominant music education models too often focus on teaching what you use to make music with rather than how you make it or why, and as a result are dependent on privilege and access” (Luttrel et al. 2020, 27). Access to understanding music and its cultural underpinnings should not be limited by online learning. Experiential teaching methods help to mediate knowledge exchange between students, professors, and cultural experts in a manner that encourages social interaction and cultural understanding, despite barriers to cross-cultural communications during the pandemic era.

Although developing relationships and maintaining human connection through experiential learning are crucial during the Covid-19 era, there is a protruding lacuna regarding what this might look like in the college world music classroom and how collaborations with guest musicians might take form in online learning environments. Thus, educators lack the tools to effectively establish, support, and carry out such partnerships. Moreover, the rise of the pandemic necessitated technological responses that continue to hinder access to digital platforms such as those discussed in the previous paragraph in relation to pre-recorded lectures. This article addresses the need for accessible intercultural practices through an ethnographic centring of an online World Music Guest Artist Series (WMGAS). Offered through the Zoom platform over multiple academic terms during various stages of the pandemic, WMGAS was adapted to fit asynchronous, synchronous, hybrid, and in-person modalities.[5]

Ultimately, our work reflects support for students, teachers, and guest musicians as cultural mediators. In addition to providing musicians who have lost income due to performance cancellations and venue closures with honoraria, the series also helps them cultivate relationships with new audiences and potential future listeners. Furthermore, WMGAS creates a space within which they can continue their practice, share their craft, and have the value of their community cultural wealth affirmed.[6] Lastly, in the vein of the applied study’s significance for tertiary music education in the era of Covid-19, this article’s co-authorship exemplifies how academic professionals and performing artists can synthesize their expertise in publication. To this end, the trio members are also educators in the areas of music and language. As educators and musicians, each one of us recognizes the importance of playing, speaking, and writing alongside each other. The Maharajah Flamenco Trio (MFT) has taken part in the series each regular academic quarter since its inception, from Fall 2020 to the present, and is centralized as a case study throughout the remainder of the article. In addition to engaging with MFT’s perspectives, we will discuss the design and benefits of the WMGAS from the lens of the world music survey students and the instructor.



Before discussing the significance of the World Music Guest Artist Series (WMGAS) and MFT’s role within this educational model, it is important to outline the methodologies and theories participants employed when creating the foundation for the series’ design. This includes a practical description of the course and the WMGAS in addition to a theoretical examination of our approaches to intercultural education at large.

Survey of World Music Cultures & WMGAS

At Western Washington University (WWU), the first author’s institution and the host of the guest series under analysis, the Survey of World Music Cultures course offers all undergraduate students an introductory survey of various music genres from around the globe. There are no prerequisites and the course is open to both majors and non-majors, although non-majors make up the bulk of enrollment and may use the course for credit towards their General University Requirement (GUR) in Comparative, Gender, and Multicultural Studies (CGM).[7] Maximum enrollment for this course is 150 students and consistently peaks at its cap. Students’ majors vary widely, as do their experiences and prior knowledge of lesson topics. Furthermore, as is typical of large GUR courses, education levels diverge in that some students are in their first year while others are nearing graduation. In terms of the teaching modality, this course was offered in person prior to the pandemic, but has since shifted modalities multiple times to adapt to state and university health and safety mandates regarding appropriate responses to the various stages of the Covid-19 era.

Before the pandemic, world music students were exposed to live performance through WWU’s Global Spice World Music Concert Series. The former instructor, Patrick Roulet, designed the series so that students could attend a public performance from one guest artist or group per quarter. Concert ticket sales and a minimal course registration fee of $10 per student—which accumulates in large classrooms—help to fund musicians’ travel and honoraria. In addition to performing publicly, the artists offer private performances and workshops during scheduled class times on the week of their events.

The pandemic did indeed lead to the cancellation of touring and live performance opportunities for musicians. However, rather than remove the opportunity for students to engage with artists altogether, the Global Spice series was adapted into the WMGAS when classroom instruction transitioned to an online teaching modality. In the absence of funding travel, room, and board, this move enabled an increase in the number of guest artists per term and incorporated musicians from across the globe within various music genres. While the series initially sponsored one Global Spice musician or ensemble per quarter, it grew to incorporate roughly eight guest artists per term, including those who were unable to travel due to cost, family responsibilities, and other restrictions. Additionally, in the face of multiple canceled events and income loss, WMGAS musicians were supported with funds from the student registration fee allocation.

When the course was taught asynchronously in the earlier stages of the pandemic, students were offered extra credit for attending live recordings that took place at a variety of times on weekdays and weekends to ensure accessibility for learners with competing schedules and to allow flexibility for the guest artists. If students attended four live recordings, they could replace a project grade or two quiz grades, allowing for a more equitable course design in which they could have autonomy over their educational experience.[8] The recordings were incorporated directly into the curriculum and posted in the weekly modules on Canvas, the university’s online learning management system, so that all students could learn from the guest artists regardless of whether or not they attended the live sessions.

This model continued with both the synchronous and hybrid versions of the course and has now transitioned to in-class sessions with the return of in-person instruction. The musicians simply stream into the classroom via Zoom. The instructor and Music Department recognize the importance of hosting live in-person performances in addition to these digital guest artist appearances. Therefore, the Global Spice World Music Series has resurfaced and now exists alongside the WMGAS. To accommodate this, there are roughly four or five guest artists per quarter, as opposed to eight. However, this lineup still allows learners ample opportunities to interface with cultural mediators and for both students and musicians to benefit from the WMGAS and the Global Spice series.


Intercultural Education in the Time of Covid-19

In addition to creating digital spaces for live performance, the WMGAS is designed to facilitate student engagement with the musicians’ cultural perspectives. Therefore, the guest artist appearances go beyond exposing students to live performance by incorporating open interviews and a Q&A session. In this manner, students learn about the sociocultural significance of the music, and the artists can engage directly with learners, effectively fostering intercultural dialogue. This form of collaboration is important during the Covid-19 era because it allows students to develop their more critical understanding of cultural perspectives and helps them to further their social skill sets in otherwise isolated circumstances.

The concept of intercultural education was central to the development of the WMGAS. While it is sometimes used interchangeably with cross-cultural studies, there are important differences. Cross-cultural studies primarily focus on comparing cultures and are often characterized within educational programs through highlighting the differences in societal behavior (Landis and Wasilewski 1999). Intercultural education, however, elicits a greater focus on the interaction and communication between diverse individuals, groups, and cultures.[9]

Intercultural exchange can facilitate collective engagement that is shared within and between the learners themselves. The learner-centred exchange in turn enables co-regulation and greater agency in what topics learners explore and engage in. Learning is thus not solely in the hands of the teacher but shared within and between all participants themselves (i.e., student, teacher, guests): a concept termed co-regulation. As Lantolf and Poehner explain, “co-regulation centres on the idea that learners themselves are in fact active in regulating mediated behavior, through both verbal and non-verbal means and in ways that might be quite explicit or much more implicit. In this way, the contingent nature of mediation reflects not merely a mediator's interpretation of learner behavior but also how the mediator is guided by the learner” (Lantolf and Poehner 2014: 158). This ultimately allows for greater responsiveness and internalization of diverse forms of interaction and expression (Lantolf et al. 2014). These skills contribute to an individual's ability to recognize and navigate various cultural landscapes, apply their understanding of diverse perspectives to real-life situations, and develop expertise as cultural mediators.

Music educator and ethnomusicologist Benjamin Phipps discusses the social benefits of learning about music in digital classrooms during the pandemic stating: “For music teaching, this poses a unique opportunity to make courses more relevant to our students and create improved social outcomes for music education” (Phipps 2021, 63). Music performance classes are often discussed in terms of building social skill sets among students, but music lecture courses can also afford learners these opportunities when the curriculum is designed effectively. Dawn Joseph and Lucy Lennox comment on this in their work on pandemic-era music education. “Teaching music in schools is not only about achieving outcomes set out in the music curriculum and about attaining high grades,” they explain, “but also about building resilience, developing good social skills, knowing how to set goals and working collaboratively with others” (Joseph and Lenox 2021, 251). The value of intercultural learning and exchange extends beyond the classroom and is particularly important for students in navigating the cultural landscapes of their future lives and careers. Almost everyone will eventually find themselves in social or professional circumstances in which they must engage with people from backgrounds different from their own. The MFT experiences this when they engage in the WMGAS. Their music-making and dialogue lead to a rich intercultural exploration of the music and results in meaningful exchanges between the performers and students.



Formed in Tallahassee, Florida, in 2011, the Maharajah Flamenco Trio (MFT) is a flamenco nuevo (new or ‘modern’ flamenco) ensemble whose mission is to deliver world-class music while engaging in intercultural dialogue with audiences. Prior to the pandemic, the trio performed concerts, taught masterclasses, guest lectured, and presented workshops (all in English and Spanish), further demonstrating the art of flamenco in universities throughout the United States. Education is fundamental to their practices, as each member is a professional educator. While the pandemic did not alter this pedagogical mission, it did present unique challenges to how they pursue their goals as educators and artists. These challenges are indeed familiar to other musicians in the Covid-19 era as the pandemic has had unprecedented consequences for the arts and artists around the globe.[10]

During early lockdown, MFT, like many other performing ensembles, was forced to respond nimbly and creatively. The cancellation of their performance calendar meant that opportunities to generate income through concerts and other appearances, and the subsequent sale of merchandise, had vanished, placing the ensemble in financial hardship. Although resources like Music COVID Relief indicated that various agencies recognized these hardships (Music COVID Relief 2020), it largely fell on the trio to find avenues to continue as career musicians, maintain a presence, and connect with new audiences. The earlier stages of the pandemic also affected their teaching duties, with each member having to move their courses fully online in the span of weeks. This pedagogical transition came to shape their technological understanding of live presentation for a streaming audience. Using this newly acquired knowledge base, they invested in equipment and expertise that enabled them to broadcast live concert performances in high fidelity from multiple internet platforms.

The reality of a global pandemic presented opportunities for the trio to perform for audiences with whom they would not have connected pre-Covid. During this time, they interfaced with societies across the country, international guitar festivals, and fans around the globe. Having attended their performances while studying musicology at Florida State University, Youngblood thought MFT’s educational approach and multi-layered sound would strike the perfect chord for the WMGAS. This led to a conversation with bassist David Cobb in August 2020, and they began to brainstorm how such a partnership could work in the fall quarter. As the MFT’s mission is to educate as well as to entertain, it was logical for them to collaborate with Youngblood to bring synchronously streamed performances, discussions, and lectures to virtual classrooms.

On October 31, 2020, MFT Zoomed in from guitarist Silviu Ciulei’s home. Even on Zoom, the excitement was palpable as students danced along to the music and asked questions about the group’s playing techniques and performance experiences. They responded with curiosity and enthusiasm to instrument demonstrations and exhibited greater engagement than when in the average Zoom class. During the interview and Q&A, the trio was able to address a range of relevant topics including the intersections of music and culture, the role of music in intercultural dialogue, and the differences and importance of honouring versus appropriating cultural practices. On an individual level, each musician’s unique background provided for a further synthesis of musical styles and cultures, therefore broadening the field of discussion.

Guitarist and vocalist Silviu Ciulei, born in Romania, studied flamenco for years in Cadiz, Spain with gitanos—the originators of flamenco—but his background and formal training are in classical guitar performance. Percussionist Ramin Yazdanpanah, son of an Iranian father and Cuban mother, is trained in world percussion, intercultural education, and language pedagogies. Drawing upon his experience living in Spain, he showcases great familiarity with the sounds and culture of flamenco. Bassist David Cobb, raised in the southeastern US, is an ethnomusicologist and, therefore, studies musical practices within their cultural context. He has a western classical background but also plays fluently in various genres of American popular music and in flamenco.

MFT has continued to be a guest in the WMGAS and was also featured in the first Global Spice concert upon the series’ return in Winter 2022 because of the symbiotic relationship they created with WWU, evidenced in positive responses from students in the world music courses. This continued partnership has allowed for the intercultural dialogue between Youngblood and MFT to broaden, leading to the expansion of existing world music curriculum and the development of lessons in other university courses. It is in no small part that this continued partnership has constituted the WMGAS as a permanent component of the world music course and has encouraged further interactions with guest scholars and culture bearers in other WWU music history and culture-focused courses. After setting the precedent with this learning model, we maintain conversations about how MFT’s collaboration can further benefit students in various contexts, on and off campus.



Beyond the theoretical significance and practical design of the WMGAS, it is important to examine the effectiveness of this model. The collaborative and inclusive nature of the WMGAS supports learning through culturally synergistic activities, or a “mutual effort from all participants to learn about, understand, and appreciate others’ cultures and their interpretations of learning and reciprocity to learn with and from others” (Jin and Cortazzi 2001, 211). These benefits are related to the learning outcomes of the course, department, college, and broader university curriculum. At the end of each quarter, students are provided with a qualitative survey and asked to share their thoughts about the course and to explain what they will take with them moving forward. The survey does not include any statements concerning the WMGAS but, on average, 53% of responses mention the series and several have also included commentary on MFT. As some of the student reflections included in this section reveal, the impact of WMGAS serves students beyond their single quarter of world music enrollment.


Intercultural Responsiveness & Cultural Synergy

Fostering intercultural responsiveness was a goal in the development of the WMGAS (see section on intercultural education). Student responses indicate that not only have they developed such responsiveness but that it also benefits them individually and as members of broader communities. Furthermore, this is evident in student interactions with the musicians during the live recordings, in their course projects, and in their reflexive survey answers.

For example, when asked how the course would influence their future relationship with music and/or culture, one student wrote:

Having the opportunity to see performances and interviews with people from different music cultures is something that will continue influencing my relationship with music and culture moving forward. Having the first-hand experience to listen [to] and watch these performances, and talk to the artists, opened my eyes to so many things regarding this topic. The meaning that comes from music becomes so much more meaningful when you understand the context behind the music. With this experience, I believe that I will now yearn for that understanding behind all music.

As this student demonstrates, intercultural dialogue with guest artists had a direct effect on this learner’s classroom experience that will continue to influence their relationship with music and its perceived significance moving forward. Remarking on course-related topics with which they would like to engage further in the future, another student spoke about the unique value of MFT’s involvement in the series and the cultural value of exposure to various music genres, explaining, “I would also love to learn more about flamenco music. The performance by the Maharajah Flamenco Trio made me extremely interested in this style … This class has taught me to be more appreciative of different genres of music and the cultures that created them.” Another student offers similar comments on MFT’s role in the WMGAS, stating:

I found learning more about the flamenco style and listening to the Maharajah Flamenco Trio was quite interesting because I have always been fascinated with the style of flamenco and how it changed and evolved over time. I really enjoyed all of our live performances—it really gave a deeper perspective [to] the course and a broader understanding of music.

Responses such as these make apparent the significance of the WMGAS and the value of MFT within the series. More importantly, they confirm that students are learning cultural responsiveness from their engagement with artists in the series. Through facilitating dialogue with an explicit focus on cultural responsiveness and exchange, teachers and students can mutually benefit from one another’s experiences and cultural knowledge. Students in Survey of World Music Cultures do this as they interface with cultural mediators and with each other in the WMGAS.

The process of intercultural exchange through cultural synergy incorporates the understanding of diverse cultures of learning through greater awareness of meta-cognitive and meta-affective aspects of learning. For example, through MFT’s discussion in the WMGAS on how flamenco has traditionally been taught and learned through engaging in familial and communal activities, as opposed to a conservatory-based approach, learners can reflect on how culture affects one’s own and others’ learning processes, expectations, and behaviors. As Jin and Cortazzi state, the goal of cultural synergy is to promote, “a respect for others and dignity for oneself, a sense of integrity about one’s own participation in a range of cultures of learning, an aspiration for confirmation or enhancement of identity for both learners and teachers” (2001, 211). Such discussion and reflection on diverse cultures of learning can support efforts to promote more diverse and inclusive expressions of teaching and learning in the classroom.

Students reflect on the benefits of creating cultural synergistic relationships with guest artists in terms of their understanding of music, cultural mediators, and themselves. To this end, one student writes:

This course has influenced my relationship with music by [instilling in me] a new desire to learn more about the individual artist and the history behind the genres of music I listen to on a day-to-day basis. I've never really put too much thought into music beyond where it may have started. However, through this course, I've learned that there's so much to be said about music and its cultural influences. I've started to feel [the] need to understand the history of the music I listen to more to fully appreciate and respect the hard work and beauty behind its cultural background.

This student’s response indicates that the course and its components influenced their desire to learn more about music and to honour the musicians’ perspectives and cultural values. However, even more significant is the implication that this lesson was not confined to the classroom but will continue to affect their experiences of listening and intercultural dialogue in the future.

The WMGAS further enriches student experiences and encourages intercultural responsiveness through a commitment to centring the voices of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian cultural mediators in the world music classroom. This is an important component of decolonizing the music classroom because it teaches them to honour various perspectives and the people that hold them.[11] As one student wrote,

This course had a huge focus on the students getting to know the people behind the music. For me, one thing that I will take away is trying to understand the complex culture and lives of people, not just the art they produce. One large thing that I have learned this year is how to appreciate and not appropriate. Which seems to be the case for a lot of white society when we (me being white) are discovering a different cultural thing that we enjoy. Instead of just taking it and claiming it as our own, it is our job to get to know the people and culture behind it.

This student’s remark not only underscores cultural responsiveness, but also highlights further complexity through their direct statement about valuing community cultural wealth, particularly for cultural mediators and guest artists that identify as musicians of colour. Comments like these demonstrate how fostering cultural responsiveness can lead to more equitable engagement with various cultures and their musical genres.

Curricula are often structured to examine cultures and music as products, undergirded in assumptions that they are static, rather than dynamic and ever-changing. However, through the WMGAS pedagogical approach, students actively collaborate with cultural mediators, vitally shifting the lens to examine the creation of music and culture as a process that engages the lived experiences of individuals and collectives. Thus, this series takes a process-based approach and aids students in developing the tools to be more informed in their interactions both in and out of the classroom and, perhaps, more invested in the ways their present and future actions may affect the lived experiences of others. For more on a process-based approaches to understanding music and culture in educational contexts, we recommend engaging with Kaity Cassio Igari et al.’s “Let’s Stand Together, Rep My Tribe Forever: Teaching Toward Equity through Collective Songwriting at the Yakama Nation Tribal School” (Cassio Igari et al. 2020). While the contexts of the educational project described in this article are quite different from the WMGAS, we find their focus on process-based learning and description of values therein to be incredibly informative and inspiring to our own pedagogical values and approaches. Further, this focus on the dynamic aspects of culture represents a broader theoretical orientation to and a deeper valuing of Indigenous cultural practices, which are often purposefully repressed, wholly unrecognized, and/or considered to be rooted in the past and therefore not presently relevant by dominant groups. This lack of focusing on traditions, such as music, as lived processes constitutes a form of cultural genocide and should be considered carefully when planning and programming lessons about cultural music traditions in the classroom


Fostering Musical and Interdisciplinary Skillsets

The Survey of World Music Cultures course also strives to provide students with skillsets through projects and learning modules devoted to learning about and experimenting with the practices of ethnomusicologists. In many cases, this means engaging in cross-cultural communications, for which the WMGAS is well suited. In the discipline of ethnomusicology, we research, talk, write, and teach about music, but we are not always engaged in the process of actively creating and listening to music. This detrimental decentring of music in ethnomusicological studies, what colleagues have sometimes flippantly referred to as ethnomusicology, can pull students away from the heart of music-making and listening by teaching them about a given music practice, rather than connecting them to the musicians with whom they are learning. Such connections allow them to engage in processes surrounding musical listening and creation. An assessment component of the world music course is the Musicultural Interview Project, in which students are asked to interview someone about their musical and cultural background and experiences. The WMGAS supports students in developing their interview skills by allowing them to participate in multiple guest artist interviews and Q&As before they conduct an entire interview on their own near the end of the term. Not only can the lessons that they learn through this project assist them in developing intercultural communication skills that can be applied to a variety of career paths, but the one-on-one design also allows them to reflect on the meaning of music with their interviewee in an even more intimate manner than in the WMGAS. Concurrently, students are encouraged to model their project design after the previously experienced guest artists interviews.

Finally, another observable benefit is the inspiration students receive to return to music-making or to engage with a new instrument or genre for the first time. While the Survey of World Music Cultures course primarily consists of non-majors, numerous students are drawn to it because of their interest in music and/or their background as musicians. For many students, observing and interacting with guest artists invited them to reflect on their own journeys and deepen their relationships with music. As one student explained,

One thing from this course that will influence my relationship with music was the guest artist presentations. Watching each guest artist play their instrument and explain how it has helped them through the pandemic really stuck with me. I got to hear people play different instruments and explain their attachment to [them]. I have always wanted to play an instrument but have never put my mind to it. Watching the guest musicians play and enjoy their instruments has inspired me to get started. Moving forward (this summer) my goal is to start playing guitar! I think that this would strengthen my relationship with music and also help with healing aspects [that can be gained from playing it].

Another student remarked on learning about flamenco nuevo through the guest artist performance with MFT. As a dancer, they first explain their cursory knowledge of the genre and then go on to discuss how the guest artist performance inspires them to engage in more musicking of this style in their next step as a language educator:

[Flamenco] is a dance between the musicians and the dancer, and I find that very fascinating, powerful, and romantic. I [am also] learning guitar and have been falling in love with the flamenco style of guitar. I will be teaching English in Madrid for 9 months starting this September, so I plan to pick up a classical Spanish guitar and learn as much as I can while I am abroad and immersed in the culture. I’d also like to note how inspired I was by the guest concert/interview with the Maharajah Flamenco Trio! They are a new favorite band of mine now.

Beyond displaying a genuine interest in learning flamenco music, this student can translate their skills as a cultural mediator in their language classrooms, using a music genre with which many of their students will be familiar to build connections and create further intercultural dialogue.


WMGAS Musician-Specific Benefits

While intercultural education and responsiveness, cultural synergy, and music engagement provide benefits to students, musicians, and members of the broader community, there are also advantages to the WMGAS that apply more acutely to the musicians. In addition to the financial support that was discussed earlier in the article, guest artists can share their musical and life experiences with an engaged and culturally aware audience. This allows them to reflect further on the meaning and value of their work in connection with broader ideas that are covered in the world music curriculum, such as heritage and identity. Some musicians have also gained followers in their online communities as students have enthusiastically responded to their classroom appearances. One student explained in their end-of-course survey:

I would also say that this course has made me more open to listen[ing] and learn[ing] more about music from other cultures. For example, the music produced by the Maharajah Flamenco Trio was my favorite performance from this class and I enjoyed the music they performed so much that I followed them on Spotify to continue listening to their music.

Musicians’ collaborations with educational institutions allow students direct access to the artists. This project creates a space for socialization and personal interaction between the students and the artists, which serves to offset the increased isolation that many people have faced during quarantine. In this way, music fulfills the basic human need for social interactions. Thus, projects such as this enable both musicians and audiences to feel that they are part of something larger than themselves.[12]

Performance is the primary way that the trio interacts socially with their audiences. MFT’s virtual performances have resulted in changes in the ways they perform and, to some degree, the social energy they are able to generate through audience/performer exchanges. Such exchanges are an intrinsic component of in-person shows and provide an immediate feedback loop to the artists through audience participation such as clapping, dancing, or through less active participation such as facial expressions. The Zoom streaming platform which is used in WMGAS permits the trio to see the audience, making the event more intimate than it would have been on other streaming platforms in which the audience is virtually silent and almost invisible, such as Facebook Live. This two-way synchronous streaming makes performances feel more authentic and fuels MFT’s enthusiasm, ultimately allowing them to provide a more energized performance for the world music students.

Finally, these collaborations also offer potential opportunities for musicians to widen their professional networks. While education has always been a cornerstone of MFT’s involvement in the musical world, the WMGAS has furthered their opportunities for intercultural collaboration in university settings. MFT’s initial involvement in WMGAS led to the co-authoring of this article, their Global Spice performance at WWU in Winter 2022, and guest appearances at two other universities. This is important for musicians that are often underrepresented and underfunded, especially under the dire circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic.



The professor and the members of MFT have co-authored this article in recognition of the value and importance of sharing first-hand accounts from cultural mediators. In that most of this article has been written from their collective perspectives, we would now like to shed further light on how such a series can meet the individual and professional goals of musicians and professors, in addition to offering personal reflections on measures of success of the WMGAS. To aid in doing so, the authors engaged in a dialogue about their experiences and each one wrote a brief response. We share these responses in this conclusion as a means of highlighting the importance of equitable participation between scholars and musicians and to provide less filtered and more intimate thoughts on the WMGAS from our individual perspectives.

Ramin Yazdanpanah: In the context of the WMGAS, success for me is measured in the opportunity to collaborate with my bandmates as well as extend our collaboration with other professionals who are as equally passionate about education. Through this process, we expand our understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world around us. These collaborations between the trio, Youngblood, and the students have been tremendously rewarding experiences that we are continuing to hone. These events motivate us to reflect more deeply on our understanding of the music that we play, the contexts and cultures that the music and instruments are embedded in, and the need for sharing our perspectives and experiences with others to engage in synergetic exchanges.

Silviu Ciulei: This collaboration has allowed us to continue to grow, this time in a new way, a way that lets us be even more academically specific and creative within the art form we work to craft. In this musical journey we take the listener through, a new perspective has emerged that propels us to better communicate with our audiences, one that, in these unprecedented times, brings us closer together in experiencing the art, music and culture of Spain, America, and the world. The relevant subjects and discussions Youngblood picks for the class as well as the detailed questions asked of us prior to/after our performances in class show us the real depth of knowledge we have as performers and culture bearers and the rapport we are able to build with audiences through our interactions.

David Cobb: As a performance ensemble, we possess a heightened sensitivity to the mood and energy of our audiences. Deprivation from the critical synergy between listener and musician can easily result in dispassionate playing. We can offset this by playing for each other; however, the ability to interact with an audience in real-time gives us a psychological and emotional lift that brings with it a higher expression of the music. Feeling that synergy in the WMGAS increased not only our ability to perform, but our effectiveness at creating intercultural dialogue as cultural mediators. We saw the students open up to us and invite us into their lives in a moving way.

Felicia Youngblood: As a professor, I often measure success by student growth and the evidence of their internalization of course objectives in a manner that is both educational and meaningful to them on their individual journeys. On a more personal level—though I predict this perspective will resonate with many musicians and educators—these chances to interface with my students and cultural mediators are a reminder of the value of relationships, co-creation, and joy that have been less accessible during the isolation of the pandemic. As a lifelong learner, I leave each session feeling excited and more enlightened, even in subsequent performance-interviews with returning musicians. The pieces of wisdom gained from our interactions are then infused into my lectures and research in a manner that keeps things fresh and interesting for me and my students.

The reflections from each author indicate that the WMGAS holds meaning for them beyond the schedule of events around which the series revolves. The series has provided us with fruitful opportunities for intercultural dialogue and personal reflection. We look forward to its evolution as we continue to adapt it to fit the needs of students and guest artists.

While we have outlined many benefits of the WMGAS, we realise that no model is perfect and there are some potential drawbacks to the series. The cost of honoraria can be prohibitive to certain institutions and smaller and/or private colleges. As it stands, WMGAS funding is dependent upon enrollment, which can change with societal circumstances, especially in relation to pandemic-based personal and education challenges and desires. Nonetheless, the cost of virtual performances is marginal in comparison and creates a broader space in which these exchanges can occur while providing greater opportunities for artists’ positive impacts.

Additionally, while we are grateful for these digital collaborations, we want to stress that live performance and face-to-face interactions with cultural mediators are still crucial to musicians and students alike. By no means do we intend the WMGAS to completely replace in-person collaborations with musicians beyond the era of fully remote instruction. We also recognize that it may become more financially difficult to support a hybrid model of in-person and digital guest appearances with the returning costs of travel expenses and honoraria for visiting artists. Additionally, there are some institutions and communities that do not have the resources to provide such workshops or attach even minimal course fees to student enrollment.

For those communities without the means to provide a stipend or host both online and in-person guests, a collaboration with arts education organizations or other campus offices could help fill the financial gap. This would ensure access for students, increase community relations, and provide often underfunded musicians with the means to take advantage of such opportunities. We also recommend hosting local artists when available and engaging online with musicians that offer perspectives that are less accessible to the surrounding community. This is the model towards which the WMGAS has transitioned during its 2022-2023 academic year.

Whatever form future series such as the WMGAS might take, the benefits far outweigh the costs. From increasing intercultural sensitivity, responsiveness, and cultural synergy to providing musicians with a community of avid listeners and financial support, programs such as these stand to benefit all stakeholders. While we are not grateful for the challenges and loss of life the Covid-19 pandemic has brought, we appreciate that the transition to online teaching and performance encouraged us to find new ways to collaborate and support each other during such difficult times. We hope that we have offered a clearer model of how to undertake these kinds of projects, but also understand that this topic is timely and that shifting circumstances will inspire further transformations of the WMGAS model in the future. We encourage interested educators to contact us with questions about the particulars of the series that were not included in the article due to space constraints. As participants have expressed, the WMGAS has cultivated intercultural dialogue that has facilitated long-lasting impacts that students and musicians can apply in their personal relationships and professional careers. These opportunities for synergetic exchanges foster personal and professional growth that continues to resonate throughout the lives of both the students and authors.



American Choral Directors Association, Barbershop Harmony Society, Chorus America, National Association of Teachers of Singing, Inc., and Performing Arts Medicine Association. 2020. “Preliminary Study Results on the Safety of Singing.” Accessed March 3, 2021.

Americans for the Arts. 2020. “The Economic Impact of Coronavirus on the Arts and Culture Sector.” Accessed April 27, 2021.

Bernard, Rhoda. 2009. “Music making, transcendence, flow, and music education.” International Journal of Education & the Arts 10(14): 601–614.

Biasutti, Michele, Roberta Antonini Philippe, and Andrea Schiavio. 2021. “Assessing teachers’ perspectives on giving music lessons remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown period.” Musicae Scientiae, 26(3), 585–603.

Brown, Danielle. 2020. “An Open Letter on Racism in Music Studies: Especially Ethnomusicology and Music Education.” Accessed April 25, 2021.

Campbell, Patricia Shehan. 2016. “World Music Pedagogy: Where Music Meets Culture in Classroom Practice.” In Teaching General Music: Approaches, Issues, and Viewpoints, edited by Abril, Carlos R. and Brent M. Gault, 89–111. New York: Oxford University Press.

Campbell, Patricia Shehan and Chee Hoo Lum. 2019. World Music Pedagogy, Volume VI: School-Community Intersections. New York: Routledge.

Cassio Igari, Kaity, Juliana Cantarelli Vita, Jack Flesher, Cameron Armstrong, Skúli Gestsson, and Patricia Shehan Campbell. 2020. “Let’s Stand Together, Rep My Tribe Forever: Teaching Toward Equity Through Collective Songwriting at the Yakama Nation Tribal School.” Journal of Folklore and Education 7: 65-78.

Chavannes, David and Maria Ryan. 2018. “Decolonizing the Music Survey: A Manifesto for Action.” Accessed August 23, 2022.

Cushner, Kenneth. 2011. “Intercultural research in teacher education: An essential intersection in the preparation of globally competent teachers.” Action in Teacher Education, 33(5–6): 601–614.

Decolonizing the Music Room. 2021. “Decolonizing the Music Room: Helping music educators develop crucial practices through research, training and discourse to build a more equitable future.” Accessed May 15, 2021.

Ellis, Greg. 1996. “How culturally appropriate is the communicative approach?” English Language Teaching 50(3): 213–218.

Gonzalez, Mari D. 2011. “Cross-cultural vs. intercultural.” Accessed April 25, 2021.

Inoue, Asao B. 2015. Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future. Colorado and South Carolina: WAC Clearinghouse & Parlor Press.

Jin, Lixian and Martin Cortazzi. 2001. “Cultural Synergy: Using Chinese Strengths in EAP.” Accessed June 21, 2021.

Joseph, Dawn and Lucy Lennox. 2021. “Twists, turns and thrills during COVID-19: Music teaching and practice in Australia.” Music Education Research 23(2): 241–255.

Landis, Dan and Jacqueline H. Wasilewski. 1999. “Reflections on 22 years of the International Journal of Intercultural Relations and 23 years in other areas of intercultural practice.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 23(4): 535–574.

Lantolf, James P. and Matthew E. Poehner. 2014. Sociocultural theory and the pedagogical imperative in L2 education: Vygotskian praxis and the research/practice divide. New York, NY: Routledge.

Luttrell, Briony, Lachlan Goold, and Andy Ward. 2020. “The MacGyver approach: Teaching economy of availability in tertiary music education during COVID-19.” Social Alternatives 39(4): 27–32.

Music COVID Relief. 2020. “Music Covid Relief.” Accessed June 10, 2021.

Nichols, Bryan E. 2020. “Equity in Music Education: Access to Learning During the Pandemic and Beyond.” Music Educators Journal 107(1): 68–70.

Paris, Django. 2012. “Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice.” Educational Researcher 42(93): 93–98.

Peterson, Brooks. 2011. Cultural intelligence. New York: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Phipps, Benjamin. 2021. “Riffing on course redesign: Leveraging pedagogy for teaching music online.” Perfectbeat: The Asia-Pacific Journal of Research into Contemporary Music and Popular Culture. 21(1): 63–68.

Rolling Stone. 2020. “How Coronavirus is Wreaking Havoc on Music.” Accessed April 5, 2021.

Small, Christopher. 1998. Musicking: The Meanings of Performance and Listening. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Stiggins, Rick. 2010. An introduction to student-involved assessment FOR learning, 6th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Voss, Zannie and Jill Robinson. 2021. Arts and Cultural Organizations: In It for the Long Haul–How Arts and Cultural Organizations Can Consider Adapting. Available at: (accessed 29 April 2021).

Vygotsky, Lev. 1978. “Interaction between learning and development.” In Mind and Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes, edited by Cole M, V John-Steiner, S Scribner, and E Souberman, 79–91. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Walqui, Aida. 2000. “Strategies for success: Engaging immigrant students in secondary schools.” Accessed June 5, 2021.

Yosso, Tara J. 2005. “Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth.” Race Ethnicity and Education 8(1): 69–91.


[1] For further discussion on such music pedagogical shifts during the Covid-19 era, see: American Choral Directors Association et al. 2020; Nichols 2020; and Biasutti et al. 2021.

[2] A cultural mediator is someone who interfaces between students and the culture in which they have expertise as members or through long-term involvement such as scholarship and performance in the styles of the culture in question.

[3] See Campbell 2016 for further information on world music pedagogy and the value of including cultural mediators in the classroom (106).

[4] Campbell and Lum (2019) have discussed the value of fostering culturally responsive relationships between music students and broader communities. The benefits of such education go beyond the classroom and into the future when students can engage with people of various backgrounds in culturally informed manners throughout their personal lives and careers.

[5] In terms of modality, in-person courses meet face-to-face at regularly scheduled times; hybrid courses offer a mix of in-person and online instruction; and synchronous and asynchronous courses are fully online. Synchronous courses meet at regularly scheduled times through online communications platforms. Asynchronous courses do not typically meet and, instead, allow students to pace themselves as they engage with material which is posted regularly through online learning management systems.

[6] In terms of modality, in-person courses meet face-to-face at regularly scheduled times; hybrid courses offer a mix of in-person and online instruction; and synchronous and asynchronous courses are fully online. Synchronous courses meet at regularly scheduled times through online communications platforms. Asynchronous courses do not typically meet and, instead, allow students to pace themselves as they engage with material which is posted regularly through online learning management systems.

[7] In the case of CGM credit, there are two categories: A and B. The A category focuses on cultural studies that lie primarily outside of North America and/or Europe while the B block is primarily within these locations. Survey of World Music Cultures is an ACGM course.

[8] There are multiple resources for educators seeking to create more equitable student experiences. A few that are particularly influential in how we think about student participation and assessment for this course and series are Inoue’s assessment ecology framework (2015), Stiggins’ work on student-involved assessment (2010), and Paris’ contributions on culturally sustaining pedagogy (2012).

[9] For more on the theoretical underpinnings of intercultural education, see Gonzalez 2011.

[10] For a small sampling of these challenges, see the following publications, which discuss performance cancellations, venue closures, and other artist hardships during these times: Americans for the Arts 2020; Rolling Stone 2020; Voss & Robinson 2021.

[11] For more on both the need to decolonize music classrooms and methodologies for doing so, see: Chavannes & Ryan 2018; Urbach, 2019; Brown 2020; & Decolonizing the Music Room 2021.

[12] To learn how this sense of flow and connection might be particularly applied to music classrooms, see Bernard 2009.