Entering a classroom in Morrison Hall, Berkeley Connect Music students were greeted with an array of sensory pleasures: the speakers played “Footprints” by Wayne Shorter and the strong smell of garlic and Chinese takeout pervaded the room. Once the students had settled down, graduate mentor Elizabeth (Beezer) de Martelly explained the focus of the day’s small-group discussion.

Inspired by a recent alumni panel which addressed the question, “What is the role of music?,” de Martelly posed the question, “Can music play a role in improving campus life?” Given recent announcements about university budget cuts, it is important for university programs and departments to assert their relevance to the campus community. In 1968, students and faculty protested for an autonomous department for Ethnic Studies. The Third World Liberation Front pushed for campus resources for minority students and a shift in campus culture. One demand the students made which the university has yet to fulfill was for a mural. Berkeley Connect students discussed the implications of a mural on campus. Murals can serve as visual representations of community values. Drawing from the example of murals, de Martelly asked students to brainstorm ways to integrate music into the campus culture.

Students were asked to accomplish two tasks: first, identify a specific aspect of campus life that could be improved, such as infrastructure, funding, academics, or social issues; and then, design a project that used music to engage or help solve this problem. After only twenty minutes to brainstorm, students presented their rough but promising ideas. One group discussed opening practice rooms for students who wanted to play but did not have the instruments or the equipment; another proposed the idea of a music library day for students to showcase songs of their cultures. Another idea was de-stress concerts during finals week.

Applying their passion for music, Berkeley Connect students were able to practice the process of organizing for social change. Art and music at Berkeley functions not only as forms of self-expression, but also as tools for empowerment. By focusing the final small-group meeting on this question, de Martelly inspired students to view music not as a separate entity but as an extension of student voice and community culture.


posted by Gloria Choi

Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant