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The Power of Music

Watching my 4th graders dance "La Jota"

One of my favorite parts of immersing myself in a new culture is seeing it in action. Anything from trying new foods, to watching dances, to hearing music makes me feel more connected to Spain. What really sticks out to me about the Spanish people is how passionate they are, especially with their music.

Gorgeous building in the city center of Valladolid

This week, my school celebrated La Día de la Música by having the kids listen to traditional instruments of Castilla y León (the region of Spain where my host city, Valladolid, is). A group from a nearby village paraded around the playground playing the dulzaina and bombo. Everyone was feeling the music-teachers were dancing, kids were swaying and the musicians were feeding off of our energy.

Some of my fourth graders even wore traditional dresses and danced “La Jota.” It was like being transported back in time. You could see, hear and feel the history flowing through every note. Since American history is much newer than Spanish history, kids in the U.S. don’t have the same opportunity to learn and appreciate how music contributes to a country’s dynamic culture. Sure, we learn about the Harlem Renaissance, but you don’t see Jazz players having concerts at public schools. I definitely envy the Spanish for this because music is such an important part of culture and super fun to listen to!

Today, the kids listened to a Rondalla-an ensemble of stringed instruments played with a pick (like a guitar). It comes from the word “Ronda” which means to serenade. And that they did. You couldn’t help but picture a Spanish couple slowly dancing around a dimly lit tapas bar at dusk. It sounds cheesy, I know, but music does that to you. It helps you picture the past and feel an emotional connection to the sounds. The kids were actually quiet most of the time (which is rare) because they were so entranced by the melodies.

While the kids might not understand how important music is now, it exposes them to the sounds of their history and is something tangible that they’ll remember. I’m so glad to be part of a school that takes time away from stuffy textbooks to give the kids a more interactive experience. As a foreigner, these are the moments that I really love because I can actually hear the difference between this culture and mine. Even though I’m not a Spaniard, for a hot minute I get to pretend I am because we’re all hearing, feeling and clapping the same beats together-which is a pretty cool feeling.





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