The Nile Project Residency at Appalachian State University
On April 4, 2017, the Nile Project will perform in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts at Appalachian State University. A collective of 35 musicians from 11 Nile countries will make sounds reflecting a remarkable synthesis of highly diverse rhythms and tonal systems, lyrics sung in numerous languages and instruments ranging from Kenyan kettledrums to Egyptian flutes.
The chance to hear such international music is rare, so fans of “The Schaefer Center Presents” series are awaiting the arrival of the Nile Project performers with great anticipation.
But that is not all. A similar buzz is building about a related residency at Appalachian involving the Nile Project. This will include 11 activities over three days beginning April 2, affecting not only various arts programs but also initiatives related to sustainability, of which Appalachian is a leader.
“We quickly saw that this project was more than just a performance,” said Denise Ringler, interim director of arts engagement and cultural resources at Appalachian. “It had the potential to engage the entire campus in something so much broader and far-reaching.”
The “broader and far-reaching” part will mean residency activities ranging from a cleanup of the New River on April 2 to masterclasses for music and dance students the following day. There will also be several workshops on the role that music can play in uniting people behind sustainability goals – something that Lee Ball, Appalachian’s director of sustainability, supports.
“The Nile Project comes to Appalachian State at a time when diverse perspectives are critically needed,” Ball said. “Sustainability-related problems desperately need people from different cultures to unite around our commonalities. This unity allows us to share ideas and solutions, and it inspires hope.”
Fulfilling a mission through music
To understand how and why this all came about, consider the Nile Project’s mission, which is “to educate, inspire and empower citizens of the Nile basin to foster the sustainability of the Nile River’s ecosystem.” Then consider that the Nile Project fulfills this mission through music, viewing it as a basis upon which to build understanding and to break down the barriers among peoples living along the river.
“Nile Project musicians discovered their common ground as artists by creating and performing music together, based on the cultural traditions of their respective nations,” Ringler said. “Having built a strong foundation of understanding and trust, they embarked on a journey toward greater understanding of the geo-political issues that divided them, and discovered ways in which to unify and collaborate in fostering the sustainability of their shared ecosystem.”
As explained in the Nile Project’s press materials: “In this way, the Nile Project seeks to address the cultural and environmental challenges at the root of the Nile Basin’s problems and shift the Nile discourse from a divisive geo-political argument to a uniting conversation.”
The Nile Project residency encourages Appalachian to apply a similar approach to sustainability issues in its backyard. Such thinking, which the Nile Project promotes, underscores a consortium of partnering institutions where the Nile Project is also performing and conducting residencies with similar goals between March 13 and April 8.
Appalachian and the other schools in the consortium have been meeting for about two years to share ideas about the directions their Nile Project residencies might take. The consortium’s other schools include Western Carolina University, which will host the Nile Project March 13 and 14; North Carolina State University (March 15-21); UNC Wilmington (March 25-29); Wingate University (March 30-31); and East Carolina University (April 5-8).
“We’re all doing similar things in slightly different ways,” Ringler said.
Several entities have designed and administered the residency activities at Appalachian. They include the Office of Arts and Cultural Programs, the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, the Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development, the Office of Sustainability and the Hayes School of Music. They also include the Department of Biology, the Department of Theatre and Dance, Outdoor Programs, the Office of International Education, and the Quality Enhancement Program (QEP), as well as the departments of Art, Appalachian Studies and Anthropology. Representatives of Boone’s Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, the New River Conservancy and the Blue Ridge Conservancy also provided support and assistance for the project.
“Our students are going to be change-makers,” Ringler said. “They are hungry for new ways to tackle the world’s problems. Inspired by the arts, the Nile Project responds to that need.”
Friday, March 24, 2017 - 10:11am
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