IIL Banner 2013
October 2014: Issue 3.2   
In this Issue: 
Music as a Cultural Vehicle

After Deportation Threats and a Long Wait, Citizenship for a Lifesaver
Nina Bernstein
October 15, 2014
Council Passes Boston Trust Act: Measure Would Limit Immigration Holds
Oliver Ortega
October 15, 2014
Boston Globe

Los Angeles, CA
December 14th-16th, 2014
National Immigrant Integration Conference



Milan, Italy

November 3rd-7th, 2014

19th Metropolis International Immigration Conference


Music as a Cultural Vehicle

Sergio Mendes is in the background. Samba gives me energy, drives away cares and even taught me my first Portuguese phrase: "y vamos ya," "let's go."  Brazil is alive to me through music, even before the World Cup introduced all the venues and forced an awareness of the size of the nation. Music built a bridge, created a positive association and curiosity to know more of this exotic multiethnic people where Boca Juniors (soccer or as locals say fútbol) are decidedly Italian and a runway model marries our hometown favorite quarterback, Tom Brady. The beat is cultural and spans the globe.


In the classic conceptualization of integration, music is both bond and bridge, particularly serving as cultural identifier and cultural ambassador.  For some foreign born there is a 'retribalization' (Keil) accomplished by reconnecting, claiming roots and allowing increased ethnic identity. Within the complex issues of identity formation of a heterogeneous society, finding distinctiveness and the basis of relationships beyond the nuclear family evolve into meaning, security, attachment and often a shared contribution to a microsociety. In the same sound wave, the opposite sociological elements are manifest. New sounds attract the sophisticated listener, the auditory connoisseur, who both values cultural contributions for either the aesthetic contribution to the landscape (or, soundscape) or affirms the inherent value of cultural diversity and seeks the new while preserving the old.


Music is particularly cultural, often reflective of cultural moods and political times. Both indigenous and global consumers learn through music about subtle and seismic shifts while history is conveyed to new generations without dependency on textbooks or personal experience. Le Marseillaise stirs passions and reiterates the struggles of a revolution to those wrapped in a contemporary democratic state or even to those who are new to its society. Yet, these formative struggles are inherited and internalized through the music's frequent reiterations.


At the end of this music spectrum, Muslim Hip-hop has become a vehicle for shared culture and reinforced values while uniting youth who want an identity beyond negative portrayals of terrorists and alienation. With roots in the Nation of Islam, Native Deen poetry gathers American teens all the while transcending societal and cultural borders. 


One might ask if salsa music is changing America. Obviously, yes. As tacos and Argentine Malbec have changed the cuisine, so has the rhythmic beat of Latin music accomplished integration, dynamically changing both the immigrant community and the receiving community. Tito Puente brought the music to the big band and jazz world as a superstar. Marc Anthony, following Ricky Martin, brought in a generation of aficionados.  Selena was very Latin music but was a native Texan. Anthony is from New York. Both represent the melding of cultures embodied perhaps.


In social work, the issue goes various directions. Those working with foreign born elders, in virtually any nursing home or retirement center, would do well to enliven the senses and spark the memory flood that is activated by culturally-relevant music.  From ambient music to special musical events, cultural sensitivity is not just speaking another language about services and health; it is conveying inclusion and a sense of connectedness within the Muzak of the dining room. One can carry on from here... thinking of the great potential with marginalized youth from the Horn of Africa who struggle with the barriers of language, religion and race but who know a contagious beat and can contribute to the block party as a crowd pleaser...or thinking of refugee resettlement centers where trauma hangs like a cloud in the room but lifts with familiar chords. One day the new Bosnians were gathered awaiting instruction and hardly an English word seemed to work. But as soon as a Bosnian cowboy brought a guitar and struck tunes that seemed surprisingly familiar to American caseworkers, the group broke into singing and with it, laughter. If healing is a psychosomatic journey, the guides best know a few singable tunes to keep up the energy and sustain community. And children... well most of us remember childhood songs throughout our lifetime, and these songs both teach language and draw a circle that includes everyone. Music education first became part of public school curriculum in Boston in 1838, but it was not until 1960 that multicultural music was introduced to all students. As we have matured in our cultural perception of ourselves and the processes by which integration is accomplished, society moves from having everyone sing all the same songs, to a celebration of the many rhythms that make up our national life.


If there is an American music lexicon, it is written by immigrants. Alfred Lemmon of New Orleans wrote: "Before the Louisiana Purchase, everything cultural in America was pretty much focused in New England, which means it was white European musical culture. With the Louisiana Purchase, the complexion of life and music in America changed abruptly." His observation honors our integrated musical roots.


All at once, slave chants, African prayer, Creole songs, street music, parade music, marching bands and more rang out under the American flag. The most profound contribution came from Place Congo, today known as Congo Square, the New Orleans gathering place where slaves were allowed to convene periodically to participate in the singing, dancing, drum-beating and hand-clapping exhortations of their distant homeland.


"Upon entering the square, the visitor finds the multitude packed in groups of close, narrow circles, of a central area of only a few feet," wrote Henry Didimus in rare eyewitness report of the slave-era ceremonies at Place Congo. "And there in the center of each circle sits the musician, astride a barrel, strong-headed, which he beats with two sticks, to a strange measure incessantly ... for hours together, while the perspiration literally rolls in streams and wets the ground. And there, too, labor the dancers male and female, under an inspiration or possession, which takes from their limbs all sense of weariness, and gives to them a rapidity and a durability of motion that will hardly be found elsewhere outside of mere machinery." Here was ground zero of the new American music, rooted in the ancient cultural practices of Africa but soon to morph into original, distinctly indigenous art forms.


Our American mix has strands from everywhere. As heard in the memorable harmonies of My Country 'Tis of Thee, sung to the tune of Britain's national anthem, to the polka that invaded US homes with Lawrence Welk to Psy who added a Korean step to dance floors everywhere. Music is culture. It transcends cultural barriers and creates new cultural bridges, as well as ebbs and wanes as cultural brokers. Music is not reflective of immigrant integration; it is the fullest expression of immigrant incorporation.


Music is both a tool and a force for social change. It lies at the intersection into which every foreign born new resident steps as they adopt a new homeland. The power, connectedness and inspiration of music are forces that defy the misery of political roadblocks and naysayers. Instead, it welcomes nostalgia and progressivism in the same breath, a bridge to our common life.


Westy Egmont, Director
BCGSSW Immigrant Integration Lab


Keil, C. & Field, S. (1994). Music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


The Artist Collective 

Based in the greater Hartford region, the Artist Collective is the only multi-arts and cultural organization of its kind in Connecticut that emphasizes the cultural and artistic contributions of the African Diaspora. Established in 1970 by world-renowned alto saxophonist, composer, and educator Jackie McLean and his wife, the Artist Collective started its classes in borrowed spaces throughout Hartford. Serving over 1,200 students per year in its training programs for dance, music, drama, visual and performing arts, its mission is to preserve and perpetuate the art and culture of the African Diaspora. Specifically, dance, visual and performing arts programs are available during after school hours for students ranging from age 2.5 to 17 years old. Music programs are available during daytime and evening hours for students ranging from age 7 to adult. Special programs include the Rite of Passage-Yaboo Ceremony, Jackie McLean Youth Jazz Orchestra, Dance Ensembles, and the Summer Youth Employment Training Program. The aim of the Artist Collective is also to develop professional artists, to foster positive feelings of self-identity among the peoples of the African Diaspora, and to raise public awareness about the value of this multifaceted and rich culture. Additionally, the organization's vision is to provide a safe-haven for at-risk youth by offering alternatives from street violence, teenage pregnancy and substance abuse.

The Artist Collective is unique in that it offers community programs that include social skills training, school success and civic responsibility, as well as a special program for children who suffer from sickle cell anemia. The Artist Collective provides programs that create an environment that inspires critical thinking and develops self-esteem, awareness and pride in one's own culture through emphasizing the arts and culture of the African Diaspora. As a recipient of many awards and recognitions, including the 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Award, the Artist Collective provides positive adult role models for a new generation of artists. Similar to the Artist Collective, Artistas y Musicos Latino Americanos (AMLA) and the Orange County Korean Cultural Center (OCKCC) build bridges between frequently divided racial and ethnic groups using music as a vehicle for change. AMLA's aim is to promote the development, dissemination and understanding of Latin music in the Philadelphia area. The OCKCC has many events, such as the Annual Young Musicians Competition which shares Korean heritage and fosters understanding of Korean culture among diverse audiences. Music is a language that bridges cultures and generations. In a country as diverse as the U.S., the histories of many cultures come together. Each of these groups has their own unique stories to tell. Music captures and shares these stories by preserving their history and building community identity.

Read more about Orange County Korean Cultural Center  > >
Read more about Artistas y Musicos Latino Americanos > >



I  am not at home with my client's music. . .I felt guilt about disliking it: On musical authenticity in music therapy.

Nechama Yehuda (2013)

Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 22:2, 149-170

Using music therapy, this study looks at the relationship between therapists and the treatment of clients from different foreign musical cultures. "Musical authenticity" is the professional musician's motivation to identify music for which there is a feeling of emotional belonging and deep mental affinity. At the heart of this study is the exploration of music therapy within a multicultural environment. The therapeutic task in a multicultural music encounter is to come closer to understanding the client's perspective through music without losing authenticity on the part of the therapist. The author sheds light on the value of creating coping mechanisms through the use of music in a therapeutic setting, as well as in the nuances found in music therapy within a multicultural encounter. The therapist's exposure to music can influence how the therapeutic relationship evolves. Moreover, there needs to be an understanding of the client's relationship with the music of their choice since it is a critical third component of making note of the client's needs and developing a mutual understanding in the therapeutic relationship.





Music therapy's effects on levels of depression, anxiety, and social isolation in Mexican farmworkers living in the United States: A randomized controlled trial. 

Schwantes, M., McKinney, C., & Hannibal, N. (2014)

The Arts in Psychotherapy, 2014, 41(1), p. 120-126

The purpose of this article is to determine if group-based music therapy affects a group of Mexican farmworker's levels of depression, anxiety and feeling of social isolation, especially given that these conditions have been found to be at high levels among this population. Intervention studies have not been conducted to determine which approaches could be most effective in alleviating these symptoms. As a result, this study shows some promising effects of music therapy, but with no significant results. However, the study does give insight into the development of best practice interventions for Mexican farmworkers experiencing mental health issues.



Found poetry-Finding home: A qualitative study of homeless immigrant women

Sjollema, S., Hordyk, S., Walsh, C., Hanley, J., & Ives, N. (2012)

Journal of Poetry Therapy, 25(4), 205-217

Poetry has been an artistic vehicle that attracts humankind because of its ability to synthesize experiences in a way that imparts musical elements, rhythm and poignancy. Found poetry is a tool often used in qualitative research as "poetic transcription" or "research poetry," where words are extracted from narrative transcripts based on interviews with the subjects.  In this study, the use of found poetry examined the experience of precarious housing and homelessness among immigrant women in Montreal.  Immigrant and refugee women are at great risk for homelessness because of the high rate of poverty within their communities. The found poem's emphasis on the context of "social work and the arts" provides an understanding of female, newcomer homelessness. Not surprisingly, the found poem technique reveals two of the key findings of causes of homelessness: unexpected crises and exploitation.  With this research and the poetic examples that are included throughout the study, readers gain a greater appreciation of the ways in which feelings are expressed in regards to constrained space, housing insecurity and dependency that is prevalent among this population through this form of artistic expression. 

Read more > > 



Pen 2 Paper 2 Power: Lessons from an arts-based literacy program serving Somali immigrant youth

Lozenski, B. & Smith, C. (2012)  

Equity and Excellence in Education, 45(4), 596-611

Exploring an arts-based, after-school literacy program serving Somali youth, this article considers a test of academic theory in a non-traditional space to learn about a population navigating cultural terrains and coming to terms with their own identity. By providing insights into the teaching of urban immigrant students, the study shows the complexity of using culturally relevant pedagogy with immigrant youth and how the intersection of ethnicity, youth and popular cultures play a significant role. The teaching utilizes the performing arts in an effort to practice hip-hop pedagogy, which is a practice that has the potential to be more culturally responsive, as well as to expose higher learning levels for diverse students in the cultivation of their academic and psychosocial abilities. This program is also designed not only to enhance the learning experience of Somali youth, but to create bridges between students and the community at large.

Read more > > 

From creative process to trans-cultural process: Integrating music therapy with arts media in Italian kindergartens 

(a pilot study)

Cominardi, C. (2014)

Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 25

The integration of immigrant children is a primary problem of the Italian education system. The music therapy project that is described in this article explores how music-art languages can become an open model for welcoming, integrating and sharing common languages with children coming from different cultures entering public kindergartens. The piece also discusses how growing new channels of knowledge and communication among multicultural groups play a critical part in facilitating the immigrant integration process.

Read more > >




The Globalization of Musics in Transit: Music Migration and Tourism

Simone Kruger & Ruxandra Trandafoiu (2013): Routledge; 1st ed 

Musics in Transit provides a rich exemplification of the ways that all forms of musical culture are becoming transnational under global conditions. Sustained by both global markets and musical traditions in transit, the authors consider how tourists and diasporic cosmopolitans make an important contribution to these traditions. Musics in Transit traces the particularities of music migration and tourism in different global settings, and provides new perspectives for ethnomusicological research. The dual focus on tourism and migration is central to debates on globalization and offers a lens on many key questions about identity and heritage, commoditization, historical and cultural representation, hybridity, authenticity and ownership, neoliberalism, inequality, diasporization, the relocation of allegiances and so forth. 


Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture 

Hisham Aidi (2014). Pantheon 

Rebel Music explores the connection between music and political activism among Muslim youth around the world by looking at how hip-hop, jazz and reggae, along with Andalusian and Gnawa music, have become a means of building community and expressing protest in the face of Western policies towards the War on Terror. Aidi interviews musicians and activists, and reports from music festivals and concerts throughout the United States, Europe, North Africa and South America. Rebel Music offers an up-close exploration of the identities and art forms of urban Muslim youth.



Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America

Josh Kun (2005). University of California Press 

Kun insists that America is not a single chorus of many voices folded into one, but rather various republics of sounds that represent multiple stories of racial and ethnic difference. The author relies on feedback from listeners and covers a range of music genres in order to evoke the ways in which popular sounds have expanded our idea of American culture and American identity. Ranging from Los Angeles to Havana to the Bronx to the U.S.-Mexico border and from klezmer to hip-hop to Latin rock, this groundbreaking book injects popular music into contemporary debates over the formation of an American identity.



Arts Therapists, Refugees, and Migrants: Reaching Across Borders
Mina Yang (2008). 
University of Illinois Press: 1st ed 

Consisting of a series of musical case studies of major ethnic groups in California, Arts Therapists, Refugees, and Migrants approaches the notion of Californian identity from diverse perspectives, each nuanced by class, gender and sexuality.



EDITORS:  C. Burrell, V. Corbera, W. Egmont, L. Falotico, J. Nomeland and K. Porter