Music Education professor and students travel abroad

Jennifer McDonel (left) and Sumit Pokhrel (right)

Two Radford University students and a professor are traveling to Nepal over winter break to give professional development workshops on best practices for teaching music to young children.

Juniors Charlotte Hargest and James Nugent, both vocalists and music education majors, will be joining Assistant Professor Jennifer McDonel on the trip, which spans from Dec. 27 to Jan. 11.

During the two-week trip, Hargest, Nugent and McDonel will travel to three cities in Nepal and work with Sumit Pokhrel, chair of the MusicArt Society in Kathmandu.

McDonel said that the trio will travel to three cities during their time in Nepal for professional development workshops: Kathmandu, Jhapa and Pokhara.    

“Kathmandu is our base of operations and where I held workshops last year,” McDonel said. “Some of the attendees will be returning, and others will be new, so there will be some review and some new things brought to the table this year. Jhapa is in the southern part of Nepal, near India, and is flat. Pokhara is near the Annapurna mountain range area of Nepal in the northwest.”

Nepali children learn some of the music taught during the workshops led by McDonel last year.

Hargest and Nugent are adding a dimension to the workshops absent from last year – the two Radford students will focus on vocal health and pedagogy.

“We will be laying down the groundwork of how to support good breath, how to relieve tension in the neck and everything that damages the vocal mechanism over time if not in place,” Hargest said. “It’s very hard to correct improper form and technique later in life.”

Nugent said that they will instruct music teachers on methods and practices for teaching their own students, thus reaching a wider audience.

McDonel’s expertise lies in music education and the broader pedagogy of teaching music.

“My part of the workshops will be explaining and demonstrating the pedagogy of how we learn when we learn music,” McDonel said. “This is a music learning theory, which was developed by Dr. Edwin E. Gordon and is based on general learning theories.”

In addition to leading workshops and seminars, McDonel, Nugent and Hargest will conduct research while in Nepal.

“We will do interviews with past participants to see if material has been implemented and, if so, if it affected their teaching efficacy,” McDonel said.

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) is funding McDonel this year through a faculty research grant. McDonel’s first trip was funded through a McLaughlin travel grant. Hargest and Nugent are both in the Scholar-Citizen Initiative (SCI) program at Radford University and have been awarded competitive grant funding through SCI and Music Department funds to aid in their travel.

“I wanted to be able to offer unique opportunities to my students,” McDonel said. “Charlotte and James are two of our brightest students. I wanted to give them a taste of the world, open up their viewpoints and broaden their horizons. I feel these students have great potential as scholars and future leaders in the music education profession.”

McDonel (left) and Pokhrel (right)

When McDonel informed Hargest and Nugent about the opportunity, both felt humbled.

“I was very moved by it,” Hargest said. “Being selected by your professor because you demonstrate certain abilities is very touching. Mr. Pokhrel and MusicArt Society seek to bring music education to all children in Nepal, regardless of financial status. As an undergraduate researcher, if I can influence the state of an education system thousands of miles away, there is no limit to what I can accomplish in my locality.”

Nugent shared the same sentiment.

“Throughout my life my ultimate goal has been to improve the lives of any I can reach, and through this professional development and furthering my experience I will be able to touch the lives of many more people,” Nugent said. “As a music educator and as a person, I will be changed by this trip.”

The trip will mark the first time that Hargest has traveled outside of the United States. The journey will start from Dulles Airport and then take the trio to Dubai before landing in Kathmandu. The total time in the air will exceed 16 hours.

“With the length of this journey, I think we could create a symphony,” Nugent joked.

To learn more about the CVPA at Radford University, visit its web page. For more information on the Department of Music, visit its website.

Dec 19, 2016
Max Esterhuizen
(540) 831-7749