Students participate in a drum circle during a Martin Luther King Day celebration in 2019. (EMU file photo)

New concentration focuses on transforming conflict through music

A new concentration at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) combines the disciplines of music and peacebuilding to equip students to creatively transform conflict and promote intercultural intelligence. This interdisciplinary program will serve those drawn to using music to build common ground in the contexts of global studies, nonprofit work, theology, worship, sociology, neuroscience, or business administration.

Professor Benjamin Bergey is the advisor for the program. This field was the focus of his doctor of musical arts dissertation, and a subject that he studied through trainings run by Musicians Without Borders.

“This combination, and the arts more broadly, has been a beloved tool of peacebuilders, but this combination has not really found its way into higher education,” Bergey said. “EMU is well positioned to help pioneer this type of program in higher education with our strong programs in both peacebuilding and music, as well as Anabaptist values in general.”

The program will include fundamental courses in the music and peacebuilding and development departments – like music theory and theories of social change – as well as additional electives tailored to each student’s career aspirations. 

Students in the concentration will build a portfolio of goals, objectives, and tools for applying their musical talents to peacebuilding and everyday life. This portfolio begins in the first year of studies and culminates in a senior project. 

One of Bergey’s inspirations for musical peacemaking is the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, which brings together Palestinian and Israeli youth to build relationships through rehearsals, lessons, and creative music-making, as well as facilitated dialogue sessions.

“Making music together helps to establish common ground and shared experiences,” Bergey said. “By building those relationships through experiences of music, they are able to engage in dialogue more profoundly than if they were strangers. They have built friendships and relationships that will help them be collaborative members of society more likely to work to transform conflict.”

Students can enroll in the program in the fall of 2021. Visit our website to learn more.

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